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24 September 2014
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The Beijing Games on the BBC
Steve Parry © Getty Images

The 2008 Beijing Olympics and Paralympics on the BBC

BBC Radio team Olympic impressions

Steve Parry


As one of GB's greatest-ever swimmers, earning 11 major medals in a career spanning over 10 years, Liverpool-born Steve retired at the very top of his game, adding an Olympic bronze medal from Athens in the 200m butterfly to his vast collection.


The European butterfly champion was the inspirational captain of his country who never failed to deliver when it mattered most.


Steve, who retired in 2005, is a leading figure in the Say No To Drugs campaign and a Sport England board member.


"For me the Olympics means the obvious stuff really – an opportunity for nations to come together and experience sport in its purest form and enjoy the process.


"It's always more fun watching other people so my favourite Olympic memories aren't of my own medal, surprisingly.


"When I was growing up it was amazing to watch Linford Christie win the 100m and Greg Louganis on the diving board, coming back to win a gold medal; Daley Thompson, hurdler Edwin Moses, pole vaulter Sergei Bubka, the rowing guys winning all their gold medals – for me they are the things that make the biggest difference.


"With regard to Beijing, I think there's a lot of mystique surrounding China.


"It's a culture that's very different to our own so there's the cultural side to going out and enjoying it, and I certainly think that no expense has been spared in terms of getting the facilities ready.


"Some people might say well, that's a waste of money, especially when you look at the economy compared to what they could be doing with it, but from a purely sporting perspective I think it will be a sight to behold – I think they'll put on a show like no other country on the planet.


"As far as the significance of the Games being in Beijing, I find it hard to put politics into sport; I think there is something fairly unique about the Olympic Games, it's an experience like no other.


"There are no political agendas from everyone who goes there and I think that goes for the volunteers, the athletes, the drudges – everyone who's involved with it.


"I think the political stance is put on it by the media.


"It's almost like Vatican City, it's its own entity. For 16 very special days it is an Olympic village,something that's very much a unique entity in its own right, something that's very pure, an extremely powerful movement.


"Something that's got the opportunity to do that perhaps has a lot of pressure put on it, rightly or wrongly, in social and political terms, but I don't think it's a bad thing that those issues are being highlighted and it's something that China will have to deal with.


"As for myself, I've been to Shanghai a couple of times but I've never been to Beijing, so I'm excited about that.


"I'm very lucky because I'm going out there to cover the swimming and one of the best athletes will be in the pool – I'm talking about Michael Phelps – and there'll also be Laure Manaudou of France, I think she'll be great as well.


"I'm also looking forward to seeing a lot of the sports that we traditionally do well at, the Brits; I'm keen to see the sailing, the cycling, the rowing of course, the athletics – I think we'll do very well in the boxing too.


"The exciting thing for me is at the Olympic Games no sport is boring and it's full of excitement whatever it is.


"As far as the British hopes go, for me I'll be looking to earmark people who are going to do well in 2012 – so of course we are going to have stars of these Games for Britain but also it will give us an opportunity to identify people who are going to be vying for the top honours at a home Games.


"Every single cyclist wants to win a gold medal so I'll be looking out for those guys; in the pool I'll be looking at the likes of Fran Halsall, I'm hoping she can do the business; and of course Tom Daley, he's a young lad and just for the fact that he's only 14, I'm excited to see what he can do in the pool.


"Thinking about London 2012, I was quite lucky to compete and get a medal in the home of the Olympic Games, in Athens, and there was only one thing that I thought would have been better than that and that would have been competing at a home Olympics in the capital city.


"I was fortunate enough to take part in the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games and the home support there was amazing; I just think it will be even better at the Olympic Games.


"And the fact that it's coming to London gets everyone focused so much earlier and I think that has a massive impact.


"Not only are the athletes thinking about it but also the coaches, the sports administrators, the government – all are thinking about it earlier and it's amazing what you can achieve when you start to focus.


“We're also spending a lot of money on the legacy programme for the Olympic Games as a nation and I really do think it will have a positive impact on us by the time it leaves.


"It's not just being spent on white elephant facilities or even on athletes – there are a lot of things that are being done that are truly going to make a difference.”








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