Our Man on the Slopes

Sport for Business caught up with RTÉ’s Darren Frehill yesterday on the windswept slopes of Pyeongchang.

The Galway native is a more regular sight on the sidelines of Pearse Park or in the warmer confines of the Sunday Sport studio but fronting RTÉ’s nightly coverage of the Winter Olympics alongside Clare McNamara is an opportunity he has grabbed with both hands.

Winter sports have never been Ireland’s strongest hand in world sport. In Frehill’s Galway the highest peak in Benbaun at 729 metres. You could put another one on top of that and still not be close to the elevation that our intrepid skiers and snowboarders are hurtling down.

“These athletes may not have been as familiar to us but they have invested their lives in their sport, just like any other of our national sporting heroes and it is a privilege to be able to bring their stories home,” he told us as the wind whistled around his phone.

“There has been a great reaction tot he coverage back at home. We had an audience of over 100,000 on Sunday night, bigger than for the Rugby and Allianz League highlights programmes that were on the same night and it’s our job to convey as best we can what is happening out here.”

“The rest of the world is mad for the Games. I was in a camera pit at the skiing earlier with more than 50 crews from around the world.”

“The crowds are big and the athletes themselves are a pleasure to deal with.”

“Seamus O’Connor was standing in 13th place in the world ahead of his final run in the halfpipe snowboard yesterday, one place outside making the final. If he had not come down on the final trick of his final run he could have made it. These are the best of the best and it is great to see the Irish gear being worn with pride by competitors who are right up there.”

“It’s hard to convey the scale of the place. The walls of the halfpipe are seven metres high and these boarders are firing themselves five and six metres higher again and executing flawless tricks. The speed of the downhill and the height of the ski jump arena would literally take your breath away.”

There is also the sense of positivity around everyone here. There is a genuine feeling of camaraderie and wanting to show the world that Korea is a special place. Trying to make a difference in how North and South interact with each other is uppermost in the minds of the organisers and the people and you’d have to hope and believe, that there will be a long-lasting good come from this.

RTÉ’s crew of four on the slopes includes producer Elaine Buckley and cameraman Cormac Duffy. They have been working hard and delivering content across the RTÉ Network from Morning Ireland at the start of the day through to the TV highlights in the evening.

Cliona Foley is also out in Korea filing copy on behalf of the Olympic Council of Ireland and helping to raise the profile of the games back at home.

Frehill has covered the Paralympic Games in London and Rio but this is his first Winter Games and it’s an experience he is revelling in. We are all benefiting from the excitement.

In this week’s Business of Sport column in the Sunday Business Post Rob Hartnett will look at the ‘coolness’ of the sponsorship market around the Winter Games and how brands are making the most of the world tuning in.

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