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29 October 2014
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The Beijing Games on the BBC
Rishi Persad

The 2008 Beijing Olympics and Paralympics on the BBC

BBC TV team Olympic impressions

Rishi Persad


Rishi is a presenter and reporter for BBC Sport working primarily on cricket and horse racing.


He grew up in Trinidad, just a 10-minute walk from the Queen's Park Oval in Port-of-Spain. Rishi played a lot of cricket at school, both in Trinidad and in the UK, where he came to live aged 12 in 1986.


Prior to joining the BBC, Rishi was at Channel Four, where he was part of their Royal Television Society award-winning team at the Cheltenham Festival.


He joined the BBC in April 2003, and has worked on the London Marathon, Wimbledon, the Open Golf Championship and coverage of bowls. He also worked on the Athens Olympics, where he presented Olympic Grandstand alongside Sue Barker and Clare Balding.


"I come from Trinidad in the West Indies, a tiny little island, and I remember once watching the Olympics as a little kid and asking my parents why doesn't Trinidad have the Olympics? And they said to me that we were never big enough to host it.


"And so I have always thought of the Olympics, ever since I was a little kid, as something that was way beyond a tiny little place like Trinidad and as I grew up it was the Holy Grail really for sporting events.


"I got the chance to go to Athens four years ago and I was in awe of the whole event, the entire Olympic experience.


"My favourite Olympic memories are of Kelly Holmes winning her second gold medal in Athens – that was pretty special, and there's very little to cap Steve Redgrave's fifth medal in Sydney. Those are two that stand out for me, particularly Kelly, the look on her face as she won those medals… fantastic!


"For me it's great that the Olympics is in Beijing because my mum is a quarter Chinese; her mum is half Chinese, which obviously makes me just a strand Chinese! We actually have family in Canton who I've never met.


"I've experienced quite a lot of the world through my work; last year I was in Australia, I went to the Caribbean last year for the Cricket World Cup, I've been to Hong Kong – but I've never been to Beijing and it will be a whole new experience for me, and to combine that with the Olympic experience will be pretty special.


"I'm excited by going to a new place, and also somewhere that I'm totally unfamiliar with the culture, the people, the way of life out there and how they do things.


"I've watched all the preview programmes and I know they're saying they're prepared for the Olympics – I'm not sure how prepared I am for what we're about to encounter!


"But for Beijing and for China – for any country that gets a chance to host an Olympics – there's no opportunity like it because you're hosting the world, basically, in your back yard and you have to be on your best behaviour.


"But it's a real chance for you to showcase all the things you can be proud of, and especially the Chinese culture. Over here, the only Chinese culture I have is my takeaway so I'd love the chance to see what they can put on that I can experience and enjoy.


"With regard to the actual sport, I'm particularly looking forward to the track and field. I love the buzz of the evening track meetings. Last time in Athens I saw the 100m final which was such a terrific atmosphere – the tension, the build-up to it was simply sensational and I'm hoping to be able to experience that again.


"I'm also looking forward to the cycling, particularly because I think we might do okay in that, looking at the results in the World Championships; and just being able to visit the venues – I didn't get a chance to see much of Athens but I saw a lot of the venues and they are what I remember of the country. They were pretty special, and I have a feeling that the venues for these events are going to be special as well.


"As for the British chances, I think we've put quite a lot of pressure on young Tom Daley's shoulders but he seems so level-headed. I saw his feature with Gabby Logan on Inside Sport and he came across as very focused, very determined, very mature and I personally think that, although clearly I don't know much about diving, he's got the ability and he's also got the right attitude and I really hope that he can do something special.


"I'm particularly excited about Victoria Pendleton in the cycling; I like athletes who step out of their comfort zone and transcend their sport and with Victoria, because she's such a pin-up girl she's one of the more instantly recognisable cyclists, so it will be great if she has a great Games so that it can give a further boost to cycling in this country.


"Looking ahead to London 2012, four years is a long time to think about because I'm so excited about Beijing. But in sport there is nothing bigger than the Olympics.


I've been to some of the great events in sport – World Cups in individual sports and the Wimbledons and the Oaklands – but the Olympics is even bigger.


"Just the thought of what London will be like when hundreds of thousands of people from around the world descend upon it – not just to see how pretty London is but descending upon it for an event – is an incredible thought.


"All those people coming here, ready to enjoy themselves; hopefully it will be a huge carnival atmosphere and it will be a great success and the infrastructure will all be right so that people can just get on with enjoying the Olympics.


"I personally think, coming from where I come from in the West Indies, this little tiny island, to be part of the greatest event in the world now in the place that I call home, London, it's just the most incredible prospect and I just hope I'm still around to enjoy it with the BBC.


"And to be able to say I was part of London 2012, for a person who calls London home, is a special opportunity."








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