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29 October 2014
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The Beijing Games on the BBC
Clare Balding

The 2008 Beijing Olympics and Paralympics on the BBC

BBC TV team Olympic impressions

Clare Balding


One of BBC Sport's main presenters, Clare fronts all its live racing coverage. A presenter of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games from Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004, Clare also anchors horse trials and rugby league coverage.


In 2002 and 2004 she was one of the presenters of Sport Relief. A regular contributor to BBC Radio 5 Live, in 2003 she branched out of sport to present Housecall In The Country, a live weekday lifestyle magazine show.


She has also worked on the Lord Mayor's Show and Trooping The Colour, both for BBC One. In 2005 Clare hosted BBC Two's coverage of Crufts and presented a 10-part series called Race Country, exploring the lives of horses and people in Lambourn.


Clare was honoured with the Horse Writers and Photographers Association (HWPA) Racing Journalist of the Year Award in 2003 and in 2004 she won the HWPA Sir Peter O'Sullevan Broadcaster of the Year award and the prestigious Royal Television Society Sports Presenter of the Year award.


"I think in broadcasting terms the Olympics is the pinnacle of sports broadcasting. For most of us, we're failed athletes and whatever it is we would have chosen to do, we failed, so to get selected for the broadcasting team is a pretty big honour.


"I had the huge drama in Athens of Germany winning the gold medal in the eventing and then having it taken away so that was a big story to be on.


"I saw two of Steve Redgrave's gold medals – in Sydney for television and in Atlanta for radio – and on both occasions I was doing the interviews with friends and family. Everyone back home was talking about it and I was there!


"In Athens I was doing the evening highlights show with Craig Doyle which was great fun, and we got to interview Kelly Holmes after her gold medals, which was pretty exciting because I'd been into the stadium so when she came in later I was able to say 'I was there!' – not that that really made her day or anything!


"I'm actually starting in the horse park in Hong Kong for the Olympics, so I'll see that as well as Beijing, where I'll be for the whole of the Paralympics too.


"I think it will be very interesting. It is a big culture change to anything that I've been to before, and it'll be interesting to see how the organisation works, what's done well and what not quite so well.


"I'm very open-minded about it, I don't have any preconceptions, I'm just looking forward to it. It's definitely the highlight of the year.


"There isn't a state in the world that actually has a perfect historical record and I'll be interested to see close up what China is like and how it works.


"I think the Games will be on an immense scale because they can do whatever they want to do. I think it will be very different.


"With regard to specific events, I'm really disappointed that Zara Phillips will miss the eventing, but Mary King is still a great story in that, given that I think this is her fifth or sixth Olympics and she now has probably the best horse she's had in her life.


"And I reckon one of the major stars of these Olympics will be Tom Daley, because he's so young, he's so good, and so cute!


"The show jumpers will be fun; they have a much younger team than usual and Ellen Whittaker is one that could do pretty well.


"Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton and the cycling team are going to do well, they'll be big stories. The rowing team generally too – the women's quad sculls are very good. It is the one chance for those lesser sports to shine and in a summer where we don't have England playing in the European Championships in football, this is the big chance for these other sports to really come to the fore.


"I'll be interested to see what the Chinese do and where they excel – and this is very relevant to the Paralympics too.


"In swimming I'm very much looking forward to Grant Hackett – it will be his swansong. I love the diving, I'll watch anybody diving, so that's fun. And there are things like hockey and badminton and taekwando that are just great and you don't usually get to see them.


"Looking ahead to London 2012, I think it will be a huge fillip for the nation. I've just finished doing a documentary for Radio 4 on the 1948 Olympics which is the last time that they were staged in London.


"When we staged 1908 and 1948 we were a world superpower and we didn't need an ego boost; now we need to find our feet. We are a financial centre but clearly that is under some strain currently; we are a very entrepreneurial country but we're not China, and we're not India and we're not Dubai, so what are we?


"We think we're not very good and we'll never get everything done on time – well we bloody well do! Every year we stage some of the major events across the board, whether it's sport or ceremonial or horticultural or artistic or theatrical – we can put those shows on and we do it very well and I think it needs the Olympics for the rest of the world to say 'Aren't they good?' and then we'll start to say, well yes we are actually.


"We lack a bit of self-confidence right now. I know it's expensive but I think that because it's the Olympics and the Paralympics, we will leave a legacy of attitude.


"The Paralympics for me goes a long way to achieving that aim because I believe that the Paralympics changes the way people think. The Olympics changes the way you feel, but the Paralympics changes the way you think too. They were started in the UK and the attitude here has always been more, what can you do? rather than what can't you do, and in that we're streets ahead of Greece, China and even America with our attitude towards disability. I think London 2012 will showcase that."








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