Behind The Scenes

Bonnell brings experience, passion to Invictus Games production

Bill Bonnell on ESPN’s commentators for
Invictus Games:

The talent we’ve assembled for our Invictus Games coverage is amazing. Chris Fowler is one of the most talented play-by-play commentators in sports and the best host in television hands-down. And Jeremy Schaap and Tom Rinaldi are two of the best storytellers in the business – period. Co-host Marysol Castro has an entertainment and sports background and is a great addition to our team.

The first person I thought of when assigned the task to oversee the Invictus Games was Bob Woodruff from ABC News. Bob will contribute his experiences. . .[Note: After being named co-anchor of “World News Tonight” in December 2005, Woodruff was seriously injured by a roadside bomb that struck his vehicle while reporting in Iraq in January 2006. In 2007, Woodruff returned to ABC and discussed his traumatic brain injury and his recovery, as well as the plight of thousands of service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with similar injuries.] It’s amazing to see the brotherhood he shares with [Invictus Games competitors].

Editor’s note: ESPN’s coverage of Invictus Games Orlando 2016 airs May 8–12 from the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (EWWOS) at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. ESPN3 offers daily live event coverage, with ESPN2 providing coverage of the opening and closing ceremonies as well as a nightly one-hour primetime program. This year’s Invictus Games, the only international adaptive sporting event for injured active duty and veteran service members, features more than 500 competitors from 14 countries competing in 10 sports. Front Row spoke to coordinating producer Bill Bonnell about the Games.

Why are the Invictus Games important to you?
The Invictus Games is a chance to honor, through sport and competition, those who’ve willingly sacrificed of themselves for their country. It’s customary in the United States to tell a veteran “thank you for your service,” which is admirable, but we need to show those active military members and injured or ill veterans that we really mean those words. These Games are a start. By showcasing their strength and telling their stories, we help them begin the process of healing as we also offer support for these competitors who represent the true meaning of courage.

How does producing a multi-sport event like this differ from your usual assignments in college football?
They are very different. The Invictus Games is a huge undertaking and a project that is very near and dear to the heart its founder, HRH Prince Harry. Basically it’s a mini-Olympics. Geoffrey Mason, our head of production planning, and I have been working on this for months. We’ve assembled an amazingly talented team to produce the Opening Ceremony, three one-hour primetime specials, Closing Ceremony and more than 36 hours of live venue coverage on ESPN3. Some of our venue analysts include Dan O’Brien, Rowdy Gaines and Duncan Campbell, the inventor of Wheelchair Rugby.

Does working at EWWOS make the production easier?
It does. We already have in place an infrastructure that helps accommodate a production of this size and magnitude. We plan to cover the 10 venues through two EWWOS control rooms which have fiber connections to each individual on-site venue. Primarily we are using the EWWOS facilities for our live ESPN3 venue coverage and to provide broadcasters with a world feed. This not only made our pre-production planning much easier but we were also able to identify several different efficiencies which allowed us to put more production value onto the screen.

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