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29 October 2014
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The Beijing Games on the BBC
Sir Steve Redgrave

The 2008 Beijing Olympics and Paralympics on the BBC

BBC TV team Olympic impressions

Sir Steve Redgrave


Quintuple Olympic gold medallist rower Sir Steve Redgrave has proved himself the greatest Olympian Britain has ever produced.


After striking gold in Sydney 2000 he became our only athlete ever to have won gold medals at five consecutive Olympic Games.


In addition to his Olympic successes, and following four unbeaten seasons from 1993 to 1996, Steve won his ninth WorldChampionship Gold in August 1999 in St Catherines, Canada.


In 1986 Steve became a triple Commonwealth gold medallist at Edinburgh. Together with partner Matthew Pinsent, Steve was the holder of the World Record in Coxless Pairs, set in Lucerne in 1994, until 2002 and still retains the Olympic Record, set in Atlanta in 1996.


Steve was awarded the MBE in the New Year's Honours List in 1987 and the CBE in the New Year's Honours List of 1997 and, following his success in Sydney, was awarded a Knighthood in the 2001 New Year's Honours List. The University of Durham also awarded him an Honorary Degree in December 1996.


Since retirement in 2000, Steve has built a new career involving various commercial and charitable projects. He was part of the BBC's team for the 2004 Olympic Games.


"For me the Olympics is the ultimate in sport in many ways. Bringing 28 sports together to compete for the ultimate within each sport, it becomes a whole festival of success.


"My own favourite memory is not so much at the Games – I think it was my return from Sydney, really. The surprise of what we did as a four and what I did as an individual, what response that had from people in the country; I'm amazed what an impact it made not just here in the UK but around the world as well.


"Other than my own experiences, I remember Mark Spitz winning his seven gold medals at Munich in 1972 – I was 10 at the time and that's what inspired me, in some ways, of thinking wouldn't it be fantastic to stand on an Olympic rostrum once.


"As for this year's Games, I think Beijing will be really interesting, I think the Chinese culture is going to make it unique – in some ways it's the character of the city and the country that sticks in your mind.


"LA it was all the razzmatazz, and the Hollywood style; Seoul I thought was going to be a little bit more Oriental, more Asian, but the city itself was just a big concrete jungle, very Americanised in some ways. Barcelona was all about regeneration – a place that I knew very well, we'd trained there for six years leading up to it so it was like a second home in some ways.


"Atlanta, again we had quite a lot of travelling to do but the venues really stood out for me at that one – it had an 18,000-seater grandstand put into pylons in the water. I've got a picture of our little tiny boat in front of this grandstand, it's pretty amazing.


"Sydney got near enough everything right, from the stadiums through to transport and the Olympic village and the friendliness of local people.


"Athens was more about sitting on the sidelines for me. I saw more sport in Athens than I did in my previous five Games put together. I was involved with the rowing, same as this time, with the BBC and it was finished by 10 o'clock in the morning so it gave me an opportunity to go and see everything else.


"It's not going to be quite the same in Beijing because we're in the afternoon, but I'm really looking forward to what this Games brings – because I don't know what it's going to bring.


" I think we're going to be successful in rowing and the Games is going to have its own character, and that character will develop as it happens.


"I've been to Shanghai twice on two business trips for a total of three days so I'm no expert on China! Looking at the human rights issues, some people say they should have had more change before they were given the honour of having the Olympic games – but I think the country has opened up a huge amount in the last eight years since they were awarded the Games and there has been a lot of change, and hopefully that change will keep happening.


"They feel, commercially, that they want to be part of the bigger world; it's easier now to have holidays there, to sightsee, and I think that's all directly from the Olympics so I think it's a good thing – but we all want to see human rights issues home and abroad to be a lot more friendly than they are.


"As far as the Games themselves go, our strongest sports are cycling and sailing. I won't get to see any sailing because that's too far away but I really enjoyed the track cycling four years ago so I'm going to try and see some of that.


"Athletics is always a good thing to go and watch; one of the advantages of having a media pass is you're not fixed as to where you have to be depending on what tickets you can get your hands on, so I've got the flexibility to get along to see whatever we're doing well at!


"I'm involved with the Team Visa athletes including Tom Daley, some badminton players, white-water canoeing, which I've never seen live before so I want to go and see Fiona Pennie at that, really just to go and see as many different things as I can.


"Four years ago I went and saw handball – we don' t really know very much about it in this country but it's a great sport to go and watch.


"Looking at where British medals might come from, I think in rowing we've got a very good chance of two or three gold medals and I think we will have six medals in total – we qualified 11 boats so far and 10 of those were fourth or better so the potential is there.


"And thinking of London 2012 – it's a homecoming. Traditionally home nations normally do better than they do travelling away.


"There's a few reasons for that – the atmosphere, it feels like your Games, your entity, you feel a bigger part of it and that can inspire people to perform better, but also because there's an eight-year build-up towards it so there's more funding involved, more preparation.


"Most of the talk even now, even though we're just weeks away from Beijing, is about 2012 in this country. Every other country is focusing on Beijing but because there's that extra focus by the public, by the Government, by the athletes, by the financial backers to those athletes, that makes them more prepared for those games and that's why they tend to perform better.


"It would have been absolutely magical to be able to compete in your home Olympic Games – the atmosphere will be amazing, to be on that stage. I'll be 50 and I can't think of anything better to celebrate my 50th year than going along to a home Olympic Games."








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