Let’s be honest. When you watch the news, you never think about the preparation that goes into a live broadcast: finding that perfect backdrop, thinking about the hand on the microphone, or the eyes behind the camera. You certainly don’t think about the drivers, translators and fixers that make everything tick behind the scenes. Well at Rio 2016, that driver, translator and fixer was me. I occasionally found myself masquerading as a production assistant of sorts, but, for the most part, I was a good old-fashioned runner for the Sky Sports News team.
Of course, the very fact that you don’t notice the work that goes in behind the scenes is a mark of professionalism. The last thing anyone wants is to see me prancing around in the background of a shot or popping up on the Sky Sports Instagram feed. Thankfully I was able to take a back seat and take it all in. Looking back, what has stuck with me is the sheer size of the Olympic operation. Stop and consider just how many athletes compete, from 100m runners and international sporting icons to water polo squads and reserve skeet shooters. Throw in coaches, nutritionists, physiotherapists, and plumbers (Team GB hired one) from around 200 countries and you're talking about almost a million people. And that’s before we even mention the press attaches, reporters, cameramen, and yes, you guessed it, drivers.
Driving may not sound too glamorous, but when your passengers are Olympic medallists, it becomes rather more appealing. People have been asking how I ended up in this role, meeting athlete after athlete, and the short answer is connections. But the long answer involves a decision to study Portuguese at university and a desire to make myself available. There is an element of ‘right place, right time’, but Sky needed an English and Portuguese speaker with a driving license who was in Rio de Janeiro. There really weren’t too many of those to choose from.
Working on a daily basis in an intense media environment was a fantastic experience and life became very surreal for the month of August. I lived in an apartment overlooking the Olympic Park, dined with athletes, and snuck into venues and watched events. I raced around airports, went to filming locations throughout the city, and sat through press conferences. I enjoyed the thrill of contributing to a live broadcast and felt the editorial buzz that only being in a high-octane media environment can provide.
What is perhaps even more surreal is how normal it all felt. By the end of the games, meeting medallists no longer felt bizarre; feeling the weight of a gold medal in my hands was still an honour, but no longer unbelievable. I even grew used to making breakfast for hungover athletes, and gleefully watched them struggle through live interviews. However, there were some things that I couldn’t get used to. Katherine Grainger quizzed me on my favourite places in Mexico and Mark Cavendish routinely advised me on my Tinder strategy. Those memories will remain forever surreal.
As a sports fan, having such access to the biggest sporting event on the planet was simply sensational. The opportunity to see events at the Olympic Velodrome, somewhere I have long dreamed of being, was incredible. But the undoubted highlight of my Olympics was the time spent with the Sky Sports News team. As you might expect, there were private jokes, highs and lows, and altogether incredible scenes. It was one of those times that you simply can’t recreate, so we really made the most of it. What’s more, we delivered excellent coverage (yes, it’s a team effort), and I’m very proud to have been a part of it. Roll on Tokyo…