For someone in your line of business, how big a deal is the Olympics?
I grew up wanting to be an Olympian, and as a broadcaster I don’t think things deviate too much – the pinnacle is the Games. You’ve got 11,000 athletes combining to do things that most of us think is impossible. You’ve got to bring those stories to life as well as you can. So it’s a privilege and it’s the pinnacle, but it’s a mountain of work. It’s like doing your year 12 exams with everyone watching.
And is there a lot of homework involved?
Yeah. I mean there’s 339 gold medals, across 33 sports, and within the sports there’s different disciplines. Like with the cycling, there’s road and track and BMX and BMX freestyle and it goes on and on. There’s so much that you’ll never become an expert in any, but you’ve got to be well-equipped in all. There’s 206 national Olympic committees, you need to know something about all the countries. We’ve got our second-biggest Games team ever – the biggest was in Sydney – so there’s a lot of individuals just from Australia to get across. We need to know about them, so that you and your family are going to be interested in watching Logan Martin trying to win the gold medal in the BMX freestyle, tell you that he’s a dual world champion who may well go from a no-name to the tip of everyone’s tongue on the back of a few extraordinary performances. You never know who’s going to become a hero, and that’s the fun of it, you just don’t know where they’re coming from.
How many Olympics have you personally worked on?
For Channel Seven this will be my third: I started in Rio, then did Pyeongchang and now Tokyo. But in my former life I worked for a sports management agency, I was involved in the Sydney Olympics and Winter Olympics in different roles. It’s fun – regardless of what industry you’re in, it is for everyone the biggest part of their year. Everyone wants to be a part of it.
How different is this year from previous Games, given the unusual circumstances the world is in?
The most obvious difference – and we’ve sort of become used to it – is no one watching [at venues]. At the start of the AFL season last year it was surreal: halfway through the year it had become more normal. The other aspect is the actual broadcast, the technical side. We’re used to being at the event: seeing, smelling, hearing, and deriving energy from the bubble and the noise. Now we’re remote, we’re not at the venues, we’re not touching and feeling and seeing like we used to. That is a different challenge, but (sports commentary) in 2021 is a lot easier than it was last year. It’s like driving a manual when you’re used to an automatic: terrifying at the start, easier at the end.