The AP team in Athens went above and beyond across formats to get exclusive access to the behind-the-scenes operation of lighting the Olympic flame, producing excellent work for both traditional and digital clients.

Years of source building and weeks of planning came to a head at the precise moment when the sun’s rays reflected on a cauldron failed to light the Olympic flame that in three months will open the Summer Games in Paris. As rehearsed in case the day would be overcast, organizers made sure to use the flame lit the day before, during a rehearsal. And few noticed the detail. But having covered many previous ceremonies and having spent days reporting on the behind-the-scenes preparations that go into the televised event, Athens correspondent Nicholas Paphitis was quick to notice and reflect it in his story.

The moment capped a few days of intense coverage, during which the team in Athens went above and beyond to get exclusive access and innovate with digital storytelling for new audiences: A photo gallery that looked at some of the key venues of Ancient Olympia under the very special light of the stars; a close look at the history of so-called priestesses that perform a ceremony that aims to resemble rites of Ancient Greece; a reflection on the legacy of one of the founding fathers of modern Olympics; rehearsals; spot coverage; reactions; and an explainer in text and video form that was very popular among clients and digital customers alike built the moment in a multistory effort with the Sports team to mark the 100-day countdown to Paris 2024.

Clever planning and years of contact building meant that AP was best placed to get exclusive access behind-the-scenes and some of the archeological sites usually off-limits for the public and media. There was also beat expertise, speed of filing, coordination across departments, and quick reaction to last-minute requests for sports officials’ response to a cash-for-gold scheme presented by the track and field chief.

The AP team’s preparation meant that the alert on the key moment was ahead of the competition. CNN, BBC and other competing agencies had to correct their reports after seeing that AP was reporting that the flame didn’t light up, and that the previous day’s rehearsal flame had to be used for the ceremony.

Video usage was enormous: thousands of hits recorded by Teletrax, including nearly 600 for the main flame lighting moment and more than 100 for the on-camera explainer with reporter Nicholas Paphitis.

For taking a set-piece story and making it new with fresh angles and digitally friendly storytelling, AP’s Athens team earns Best of the Week — Second Winner.

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