Boston Marathon Broadcast Will Balance Covering a 'Sporting Event and a Tragedy'
When thousands of marathon runners take to the streets of Boston on April 21, it will not only be for the 118th historic "Marathon Monday," but also to commemorate the anniversary of the fatal blasts that killed three people and injured 264 others.
Universal Sports was on the scene when two pressure-cooker bombs exploded near the finish line on Boylston Street on April 15, and its coverage this year will be a "balance of sporting event and tragedy," said Universal Sports senior vp production Dean Walker during a conference call on Thursday.
"The Boston Marathon itself should be a living memorial to those who suffered in the tragedy. This race will go on forever, and we want to show the entire nation that, despite what anybody tried to do, it is now stronger and more determined," he said. "There's no reason for us to push aside the tragedy. It's not something that should ever be done, because there's so many people who suffered."
While always a highly-anticipated event in Boston, all eyes in the U.S. will be on the 26.2 mile race this year, and Universal Sports will reflect that with coverage of the anniversary on April 15, a preview show on April 19, and then the pre-race, starting at 8:30 a.m. ET on April 21, followed by live coverage from Copley Square following the 36,000 runners (which marks the second largest field in the history of the event).
Universal will also air the 2013 marathon for the first time in its entirety, which was previously held out of respect for the dead and wounded.
When the bombs went off, its crew was filming the finish line, but "nobody was hurt. Basically the crew that was there, including myself, was located about 75 feet from the first bomb," said Walker. "I did have personnel that was near the first bomb site, and it was a very traumatic event, but fortunately everybody came through unscathed.
"At that time our first and foremost concern was for our personnel and the people we were working with. We're not a news organization, so we wanted to make sure that we treated it with the orders that we were given by law enforcement because they wanted us to evacuate immediately, which we did," he explained.
The emotional trauma of the event makes it even more important "to show that as an organization we are just as united with Boston as the rest of the country, and we want to make sure that we come back determined to show and do what we didn't finish last year -- to wrap up the Boston Marathon and show what a fantastic race it was."
Universal Sports veteran commentator Larry Rawson went on to point out that as a country "Our royalty in sports is things like the Masters and the Boston Marathon," adding "15 people started in the first Boston Marathon in 1897.
"These crazy guys picked on the wrong event because everybody loves the marathon in Massachusetts, and the resolve of the people couldn't have been greater afterwards. You know, you'll never break the will of marathoners."
Rawson will be joined on the broadcast by Frank Shorter, ultra-marathoner Josh Cox and 1996 Olympian Juli Benson, along with Paul Sunderland, Nick Gismondi and Craig Hummer.
Additionally, Boston native and Survivor star Ethan Zohn, who is also a former marathon runner and was at the race last year when the bomb went off, will act as social media correspondent.
A total of 3,000 members of the media are expected to cover the event.