CHAMPION Carcoar para athlete has been denied one final turn in the national spotlight in a Commonwealth Games closing ceremony debacle that has angered the Australian sporting world.
The millions who tuned into a live broadcast of the closing ceremony on Sunday night were left bewildered by the decision not to show the triumphant athletes from all Commonwealth nations entering the stadium at the start of the celebration.
Fearnley – adopted as one of our own by the Bathurst community and married to Bathurst local, Sheridan – had earlier that day been announced as the flag bearer for the Australian team following an inspirational gold medal performance in the T54 marathon on Sunday morning.
But he and the entire Australian team were already in the stadium when the official broadcast started at 8.30pm.
Angry viewers took to social media to slam the decision, with Channel Seven bearing the brunt of much of the criticism.
But Seven’s own commentary team of Basil Zempilas and former Commonwealth Games medallist Jo Griggs hit back at the end of the broadcast, laying the blame squarely at the feet of Games organisers.
“'People are thinking that Channel Seven has chosen not to show pictures of athletes or not to show the flagbearer, Kurt Fearnley, or other flagbearers,” Griggs said live-to-air.
“We can only show the pictures that are provided by the actual host broadcasters. They made a decision not to have athletes enter the stadium. They made the decision not to show the flagbearers. I’m furious.”
Fearnley, however, was philosophical about the debacle, refusing to let it sour one of his proudest moments.
He told ABC Radio on Monday morning that Sunday had been an “incredible day”.
“I got to carry that flag around, and thankfully my mum and my sister were in the stadium. They did see that moment,” Fearnley said.
“I got that photo, and it was Instagrammable. So you know what? I’m not going to let anything even slightly taint what was an incredible day.”
A contrite Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation chairman Peter Beattie acknowledged the “stuff-up” on breakfast television on Monday morning.
“Did we stuff it up? Yes. Should [athletes] have been a part of the actual ceremony that was broadcast? Of course. We got it wrong. I can’t be more honest about it than that,” Mr Beattie said on Channel Seven’s Sunrise.
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