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World Olympic Dreams brings 2012 athletes closer

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Matthew Pinsent | 16:45 UK time, Monday, 26 July 2010

It is almost exactly a decade since the Sydney Olympics. Of course that event is a rainbow of experiences for me - the city, the racing, the medal and the people I did it all with.

But by far the most common thing that people ask me about was the documentary that the four of us (Steve Redgrave, Tim Foster and James Cracknell if it's bothering you) made in the four years running up to the Games.

People want to know what it was like training with a film crew around all the time - we weren't as we filmed it ourselves as a genuine "video diary".

But people predominantly ask about Steve falling off the rowing machine. It was an explicit piece of television - not by standards that would worry editors, but in its ability to reveal.

Steve must have done thousands upon thousands of interviews over the years, all asking: What drives you? And in the end one piece of television summed it all up. Steve falls off the rowing machine in agony and exhaustion at the end of our rowing test in the spring of the Olympic year. The determination, pride and sheer horror of what he was asking his body to do is there naked for all to see.

Steve Redgrave, Tim Foster, James Cracknell and Matthew PinsentSteve Redgrave, Tim Foster, James Cracknell and Matthew Pinsent win gold in Sydney

The whole documentary was, of course, more than that but if you want a visual motto for our crew, for our gold medal, it was that 10 seconds of television.

And now our challenge for the new World Olympic Dreams series at the BBC (and the path of my decade since Sydney is partly wrapped up in that "our") is to find 26 other stories of Olympic hopefuls.

Some are famous, some from these shores but the majority are from abroad and, to us at least, unknown. They represent a variety of sports and medal chances - some will no doubt not achieve the standards that the Olympics requires but I have always maintained that part of the story is important to tell too.

The sportsman inside me is always setting targets against which I want to measure my performance. So let me be open about one particular parameter for which I will judge success for World Olympic Dreams.

At every event at the Olympics the competitors are introduced to the crowd before they start. You know the thing: "In lane one representing the Ukraine ... Nikolai Nabyrikov!", then Nikolai interrupts his pre-race focus to wave rather self consciously at the crowd and the camera.

Or, if you are Usain Bolt, you adopt the Saturday Night Fever pointy position and milk it. For most British competitors the welcome will be rapturous and for most foreign competitors the applause will be modest. I want World Olympic Dreams to have introduced enough spectators and viewers to Merilyn Diamond, Enkhbatyn Badar-Uugan or Majlinda Kelmendi so that their welcome is something other than modest.

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The tag line is "26 Olympic hopefuls for two years" and that sums it up very succinctly - we hope to follow their journey between now and London 2012. The magnificent venues that are - as I write - rising out of the ground in East London will be the stage onto which our players step, for the first time.

The task for London is to make the event worthy of their sacrifices, which have been going on for years already. Hopefully we'll be able to give you the chance to get to know them before they compete.


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  • 1. At 5:57pm on 26 Jul 2010, JoC wrote:

    I remember watching your pre-games video diaries for Sydney Matthew so will definately look forward to following 'Olympic Dreams'. Looking at what goes on behind the scenes makes the public recognise all the immense effort that goes into becoming an Olympic athlete and succeeding on the day. Hopefully, it will generate a lot of support for the participants involved both from GB and elsewhere and make their participation appear even more relevant.

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  • 2. At 9:49pm on 27 Jul 2010, rent82 wrote:

    Gold Fever - incredible stuff Matt. Is there any way I can get a copy or view it online? Looking forward to 'Olympic Dreams'.

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  • 3. At 10:45pm on 27 Jul 2010, Rob wrote:

    Wasn't the ergo that summed it up for me but Matt Pinsent explaining how their sole aim was to ensure that their worst possible race (i.e. if they rowed really badly) would still be better than anybody else's best.

    Encapsulated why he and Redgrave won 9 Olympic gold medals

    The legacy of confidence they gave British Rowing is still bearing fruit

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