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24 September 2014
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The Beijing Games on the BBC
Simon Mayo

The 2008 Beijing Olympics and Paralympics on the BBC

BBC Radio team Olympic impressions

Simon Mayo


Simon Mayo presents his own show on BBC Radio 5 Live weekdays from 1.00 to 4.00pm – a mix of topical debate, news and interviews for which he recently won Speech Broadcaster of the Year at the 2008 Sony Radio Awards.


Inducted into the Radio Academy Hall of Fame in December 2006, Simon is one of the country's most recognisable broadcasters.


Prior to joining 5 Live, he spent 15 years at BBC Radio 1, including being one of their most successful presenters of the flagship Breakfast Show, for which he won a Sony Award for National DJ of the Year in 1991.


Londoner Simon has also presented various shows for television including Top Of The Pops.


"For me the Olympics represents the best and the worst of sporting endeavour, so we will have lots of fantastic, inspirational stories of incredible records and heroic sporting achievement which will inspire people and then there'll be the questionable stories about how it was achieved and human rights records of governments involved.


"It's an enormous mish-mash of conflicting stories – so there'll be the wonderfully heroic and the questionable, all tied up.


"As far as my own Olympic memories go, the only other Games I've been to was Barcelona in 1992.


"We were doing some programmes for BBC Radio 1 from there and we were stationed just outside the athletes' village.


"We were on at Breakfast so what we had were all the interviews we didn't expect to get, from athletes who had finished their events and who were traipsing back into camp at seven o'clock in the morning, having had the wildest party of their life – because they'd been training for four years and thought they'd go to town!


"So there was that, plus seeing Sally Gunnell winning her gold medal in the 400m hurdles.


"With regard to Beijing 2008, I have absolutely no idea what to expect.


"Everyone says it's going to be a completely different Olympic experience to anything that's happened before, that Beijing is a different city to anything that anyone will have experienced before …


"I'm sure when you're in a stadium watching sport, you could be anywhere – Sydney, London, Paris or Beijing.


"But I genuinely don't know what to expect. The athletics is almost the most predictable part of it – it's everything around it that I think is going to be the fascinating story.


"I think the significance of the Games being held in Beijing will only become apparent during and after the Games.


"No one expected the carrying of the torch to become such a controversial event as it did, and that was just the torch – so I think we won't know the significance until we see how the politics plays out, whether any athletes take the opportunity to make a political gesture or send a political message.


"Will any of the thousands of protests which happen every year in China anyway, but don't get reported over here, manifest themselves during the Olympics and how will the Chinese react if so?


"Whether they improve their human rights record and whether they become more open – all of that is yet to be decided.


"As far as the actual sport goes, it's hard to move too far away from the blue riband events that everyone is looking forward to – the athletics is where a lot of the attention will be, the 100m, 400m, 1500m, the marathon; these are always the most extraordinary theatrical occasions even if that is not where we're going to get any of our success, necessarily.


"But I think the key big events are always the ones that are the most exciting.


"Looking at British chances, I'll go along with that established wisdom that we'll probably do best in the sitting-down sports!


"One of the things I'm doing is the equestrian stuff, so that plus the sailing, the rowing, the cycling are the ones where we'll win our medals.


"I don't think it will be a classic track and field year for Team GB, though it would be fantastic to be surprised.


"I think what will be different is that everyone will be seeing Beijing through a prism of London 2012, so if someone comes fourth or fifth and they're under 30, we'll be saying, well, maybe next time...


"And talking of London 2012, if you take Lord Coe and his team at their word, that it will be a great Games brought in within the budget parameters they've said, it should be fantastic for London.


"A lot of money spent here, a lot of money on the transport system and redevelopment … the only thing you can say for certain is that it's a fantastic opportunity to showcase London as one of the greatest – if not THE greatest – cities in the world."








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