RIO DE JANEIRO – During the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, artist LeRoy Neiman (above) painted the story of the Games for ABC. Known for his brilliantly colored images from sports and leisure activities, Neiman’s work would again be part of ABC’s Olympic coverage in Lake Placid (1980), Sarajevo (1984) and Los Angeles (1984).
Flash forward to 2014, ESPN Executive Producer Jed Drake and senior production specialist Geoffrey Mason – who spent much of his career working on ABC’s Olympic coverage – are borrowing a page from ABC’s playbook, using Brazilian artist Jambeiro to paint the story of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
What’s even more interesting is how ESPN discovered Jambeiro. ESPN’s Bob Ley recounts the remarkable story:
“In 2012, I was in Brazil in the Santa Teresa neighborhood for an Outside the Lines story looking ahead to the World Cup. We had just been throughout the city [Rio] and with the altitude up there, it’s very picturesque with cobblestone streets and streetcars. We notice a beautiful piece of street art on a wall, probably 40 feet long and eight or 10 feet wide and it had to do with the 2010 World Cup selection for Brazil, their team.
“It had the players and pictures of who was going and a street car – which is the tourist attraction in that neighborhood – and pictures of a couple of players who weren’t going, sort of waving goodbye. We stopped and decided to shoot video of it. We were there about 10 minutes and a guy rides by on his bicycle, and he says something in Portuguese. Our ‘fixer’ says, ‘He says it’s his painting.’ Our producer Nancy Devaney and I got him back and we interviewed him, and we exchanged contact information. And that’s how we met Jambeiro – totally by chance. [In the planning for World Cup] I told Jed Drake that I had met the artist Nancy used and that’s how it happened. It was an absolute chance encounter out of nowhere.”
Note: For more on Jambeiro, ESPN’s Julie Foudy filed this story.