Channel 4 says it wants to make its wall-to-wall coverage of the London 2012 Paralympics the “biggest event” in its history.
The broadcaster is promising a multi-million pound marketing campaign in the lead-up to London 2012 – again the biggest in its history – and promised that coverage during the games would be “pretty much first thing in the morning until last thing at night”.
Channel 4 will start the countdown to 2012 later this month, with a weekend of Paralympic-themed programming.
The channel’s youth strand T4 will be hosted across the bank holiday weekend from a location near the ParalympicsGB training camp in Bath and will include the first in a 10-week magazine series, That Paralympic Show, co-presented by former Paralympian Ade Adepitan.
On Sunday 29 August, exactly two years before the opening ceremony of the 2012 Paralympics, the channel will air a feature-length documentary, Inside Incredible Athletes, which uses scientific tests and scanning technology to create “biomechanical portraits” of seven elite athletes hoping to represent ParalympicsGB in 2012.
The documentary will be promoted with an “ambitious” marketing campaign –using the phrase “freaks of nature” – that “aims to challenge perceptions of disability sport and encourage the audience to question their own prejudices”.
The following day, Channel 4 will show highlights of the IPC swimming world championships in the Netherlands.
Launching the channel’s plans for 2012, Julian Bellamy, Channel 4’s acting chief creative officer, said research showed 84 per cent of the British public could not name a single Paralympian.
Adepitan said Channel 4 was “taking the Paralympics into a new era” and promised that it would “turn our Paralympians into household names”.
Speaking after the launch, Alison Walsh, Channel 4’s disability executive, said the broadcaster was “very alive” to potential criticism that its programmes would have a “medical model” emphasis on elite athletes and their impairments, overshadowing the problems caused by the barriers that disabled people faced in society.
But she said the channel hoped to change attitudes of “pity” towards disabled people. Inside Incredible Athletes would be “empowering” and portray the athletes instead as “really powerful”, she said.
“It will not be all about making them into some kind of super-hero. They are going to be [shown as] really hard-working athletes.”
But she added: “The disabled audience have to be the judge.”
Chris Holmes, who won nine Paralympic swimming gold medals and is now director of Paralympic integration for the 2012 organising committee, said the games could change the way society views disabled people, as they did in South Korea after it hosted the 1988 games.
He said the weekend of programmes was a “great way to launch it with two years to go” and would be “a great weekend of sport”.
Channel 4 also announced that BT and Sainsbury’s had become joint sponsors of its Paralympic programming.
That Paralympic Show, Saturday 28 August, 1.25pm, Channel 4.
Inside Incredible Athletes, Sunday 29 August, 9pm, Channel 4.