Barry Davies' Olympic Moments: Britain's hockey gold in 1988

By Barry DaviesOlympic Games broadcaster since Mexico 1968

In a 10-part series, BBC broadcaster Barry Davies recalls the most memorable Olympic moments of his 44 years on air from the Games.

Commentators sometimes say things which you know afterwards, though not at the time, are what everybody else would have said.

It happened to me in the semi-final of Euro '96, when Gareth Southgate missed his penalty. All I said was, "Oh, no!" - and that, with a few adjectives added in, was what most people around the country said.

Commentary has to be spontaneous. You just pray that at the moment when it really matters, as Kenneth Wolstenholmeexternal-link proved all those years ago, you find the right words to add to the picture.

At the Seoul 1988 Olympics, like the British hockey team, I had no idea what effect was being had on people back home in Britain. The British men touched a spark with the public which they did not appreciate.

They went to the Games as the number two seeds but right from the start, things were not straightforward. They drew 2-2 with South Korea having been 2-0 up and there was a little bristling on the field, an altercation or two.

Then they lost to West Germany and at the end you could see them looking around, thinking: "That's it, we've blown it."

But other results meant they had not quite yet blown it - provided they won every match from that point onwards. And that concentrated their minds hugely.

They got to the semi-final, a superb game where Britain took a two-goal lead, let Australia back into it, then were saved by a brave goal from Sean Kerly.

The final itself was not as good as that match and, in my mind, I don't think I had any doubt that Britain would go on to win it. They scored good goals at the right times, moved the ball around quickly, and Imran Sherwani had a great game down the left side.

Every player in the team played well and it became a wonderful occasion. People who knew nothing about hockey got up at six o'clock in the morning in Britain to watch it. The team produced something which got a response from the public.

When Britain's third goal was scored - a tap-in from Sherwani - I began recapping it and, as I'm doing that, I'm thinking to myself: Hang on a minute. It's a knife-through-butter situation, there was no defender around. What were they doing, the Germans?

So I said: "Where were the Germans?"

And as I'm saying that, I'm thinking: Who gives a stuff where the Germans were? We're going to win this!

I have to admit the 'we' was there. I was guilty of supporting Great Britain. So then I added: "Frankly, who cares?" Because I didn't, and I doubt if anybody watching in Britain did.

The game ended with a 3-1 win for Britain and after the match it was total chaos. The ceremony took a long time to come together and that allowed for all sorts of little cameos - the players' wives sat on the rostrum for photographs, the team bowed to the beautifully dressed Korean ladies who had turned up to every match, the minister for sport was lifted off his feet by one of the players, and in the middle of all of this was HRH Princess Anne, walking through the melee with absolute delight.

Sport is nothing without emotion and commentary is the art of finding the right words. You don't always know whether you've found them or not - sometimes, you're stupid enough to find them and then add a few more words which take away from what you have just said.

It's a matter of fortune. All I'm trying to do is open my mouth and hope my foot is sufficiently removed from it.

Top Stories