The 2008 Beijing Olympics
on the BBC
BBC TV team Olympic impressions
Hazel is one of BBC Sport's most experienced
and versatile broadcasters. A regular
presenter of Grandstand, Sunday Grandstand
and Ski Sunday, she is also the face of snooker
and athletics coverage and a sports presenter
on BBC News.
An integral part of the BBC's
coverage of all major events over the past 18
years, Hazel presented from Athens in 2004,
marking her fifth consecutive Olympic Games.
She has also worked on every Winter
Olympics and Commonwealth Games since
1994 and reported from the football World
Cup Finals and European Championship finals
In golf, she is the anchor for the Women's
Open and reports on the Open, the Ryder
Cup and the Solheim Cup.
other credits include Final Score, Football
Focus and Wimbledon.
"For me the Olympics represents the absolute
in sport, something that I aspired to as a child
– it fired my imagination and is responsible,
probably, for my career in sport. I was first
aware of the 1972 Olympics in Munich and I
had a scrapbook and a sticker book and knew
all of the little logos for the different sports and
was absolutely fascinated by the whole thing.
"Spitz, Korbut, Mary Peters – the games of 72
made a massive impression on my life and –
unknowingly – shaped my direction. I was
interested in sport anyway and always
imagined myself winning an Olympic gold
medal; I guess the closest I've ever come is
commentating on other people winning one!
"I've been very lucky because this will be my
sixth Summer Olympic Games on the trot –
my first one was 1988 – so there are
probably too many memories to detail but all
of them have been very different.
memories are probably like everyone else's,
much of them shaped by events in track and
field – Michael Johnson, obviously, breaking
the 200m world record in Atlanta – but it has
opened my eyes to a huge number of other
sports, the so-called minority sports which in
reality aren't minority!
"I remember at the diving pool in Barcelona,
speaking through an interpreter to a little girl
named Fu Mingxia who was 13, the youngest
ever gold medal winner. The only thing that
we could understand was that she was a great
fan of Madonna and so was I!
Freeman typified what it's all about to me in
Sydney that night she outshone Jonathan
Edwards – who also won a gold medal that
night, so did Michael Johnson, but she to me
was the absolute iconic figure of that Games
and I'll never forget seeing that, it was
"More recently it was so exciting being in the
stadium the night when Kelly Holmes won
her second gold medal and our sprint relay
team won the gold medal too. A lot of these
memories are dominated by track but there
are so many things; Jason Quealy and Chris
Hoy in cycling, even becoming fixated with
Ben Ainslie in sailing – totally transfixed by a
sport that I would probably not have
watched in any great details but I always
think if there's an Olympics gold medal up
for grabs, it could be underwater tiddlywinks
and it actually matters so much.
"I was touring around China on holiday 11
years ago and I'm expecting huge changes in
the city. It'll be fascinating to see that, and
I'm also intrigued and excited by the
prospect of the handover of the flag to
"As to the Games themselves, I
think some of the venues will be fascinating.
It's a cliché answer but it's still true: it's a lot
of work for us broadcasters but you get up
every morning and there's a spring in your
step because you know somebody's life is
going to change for the better and to be
sitting there watching it... it's hard to
describe how exciting a day at the Olympics
can be because you just don't know what's
going to come up.
"Things fly at you from all
sides – it's just this fantastic cornucopia of
sport and it's a fantastic feeling working at it.
"I was actually in Moscow when the IOC
announced that it would be Beijing in 2008,
so I was covering the event for news and a
lot of the questions that are now being
raised, I and many other journalists present
raised at the time. So to me this whole
situation is rather old.
"On a personal level,
China is an absolutely wonderful and
fascinating country and I have met some of
the friendliest people I've ever met there
while travelling around the world so I'm
really looking forward to going back.
"Looking at the action there, Michael Phelps
could be an interesting one in the pool. With
him it's not a question of will he win a gold
medal, it's how many, and I'll be interested
to see how many he does get.
interested to see how the three-day eventers
get on in Hong Kong, and having just
watched the world track cycling
championships I'm very excited about
Britain's chances because it was such an
uplifting event in Manchester.
"For me half of the joy of the Olympics is in
celebrating achievements of people whose
countries we've never been to and never
seen and seeing what it means to them – like
when Jefferson Perez won Ecuador's first
ever medal – which happened to be gold – a
few years back.
"I love the fact you see the
making – and indeed breaking – of national
heroes from all around the world and that's
as rewarding sometimes for me as to see a
British gold medal.
"But in saying that I've
been lucky to work at the last couple where
our medal count has been boosted
substantially and I've got a big feeling of
optimism about our chances in very many
sports and hopefully we can do even better
and peak as we come up to 2012.
"I remember going to Athens one year
before the Games and they had a host of
problems beforehand and I thought, why
would you ever bid for an Olympic Games? Seeing the pain these people were in with
cranes and construction… it was a
"But the feelgood factor afterward
so saturated the whole of Greece – a Greek
friend said you can't describe the feeling of
pride and success that Greece feels now. We
"So for London, yes it'll be painful on
the way but there's something about an
Olympic Games – and I've seen this in so
many cities – suddenly the country wakes up
about a week beforehand and when it's on
everyone thinks this is the best thing we've
ever done, and I'm looking forward to seeing
that in the people of Britain because they've
not had a chance by and large to experience
"It's a fantastic feeling when it's on and it's
so inspirational not just to athletes but to
people in general."