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Behind the scenes with BBC presenter Sonali Shah

Behind the scenes with BBC presenter Sonali Shah

06/08/2012

It’s taken years of training, hundreds of early morning starts and nerves of steel to make it to the Olympic Games. No, we’re not talking about the athletes. The Olympic broadcasters are working around the clock to make sure we get the best of the Olympic experience in our own homes. So we get up close and personal with BBC sports reporter Sonali Shah, who also reported from the first Winter Youth Olympic Games, Innsbruck 2012, in the heart of the action at the Olympic Park to get the lowdown on reporting to the world.

Can you tell us about your role?
I’m doing loads of different things for the Olympics. I’ve got two sports that I’m looking after, the triathlon in Hyde Park and the archery, so I'm at Lords for the medal days. On the days that I’m not doing those two sports I’m in the BBC Three studios here at the Olympic Park, which is outdoors and has a great view so it feels like we’re at the heart of the action.

What’s been your best Olympic moment so far?
It’s got to be the British men’s team winning the bronze at the artistic gymnastics because that’s such a big deal for the sport (the first gymnastics medal for Team GB in 100 years). We talk about this men’s medal 100 years ago but back then they were rope climbing so it’s not the same and those boys have really worked hard, so to get a medal, I never thought we’d see the day.

What’s it like hosting the Games in your home country?
It’s amazing! I’m never going to have that experience again so I know it’s a big deal. When I was in Beijing (2008 Olympic Games), which was my first Olympics, we already knew that London 2012 was coming and for me I thought that I really needed to be a part of it and that’s when I made sure I took the right steps. I’m sort of like the athletes, not that I’ve had the training, but having the goal to be at London 2012 no matter what.

What’s your favourite sport to report on?
I think the triathlon. I’ve reported on a lot on triathlons so I’m looking forward to my first Olympic one. It’s great because it’s like golf in that you can move along the course with the competitors.

What’s it like broadcasting live to the world?
A little bit scary because we don’t have an auto cue and sometimes we don’t know where we’re going so you’ve got to pretend you’re just chatting to a couple of people, but a bit of nerves is good and you can turn that into great TV sometimes.

What’s been your best moment as a sports reporter?
At a push it’d probably be being there for gold medals in Beijing. I was there when Chris Hoy and his team won the gold (GBR, team sprint cycling), and it was just brilliant to be there to watch the success for people who you’ve got to know over the years. We were all rooting for Tom Daley (GBR) in the diving because we got to know him over the last few years. There are people like British sailor Ben Ainslie who I’m supporting because he was the first Olympian I ever met and he let me dress him up as a pirate on his boat!

What did you think of the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck?
I loved it. It was my first time at a Youth Olympic Games. What I really liked about the YOG is that all those kids at the next senior winters can say they’ve already experienced an Olympic event. So it’s not necessarily about winning medals, it’s about being calm enough at your next Olympics to win medals. The more Olympics you go to the more relaxed you are and you’ll perform better whatever your role.

How do you think the Youth Olympic Games helps future athletes in their careers?
Just by giving them the experience of an opening ceremony and competing on a world stage with a bit more pressure on them because of the title of it being an Olympic event but without so much attention, which is an advantage. I mean Tom Daley being in Beijing at the age of 14 meant that he coped with the pressure and he’s a great example of that and he’s a great example of how people from the Youth Olympic Games do well (Tom also competed at the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games). Which Youth Olympic Games athlete were you most looking forward to seeing? British gymnast Sam Oldham (GBR, Olympic bronze medallist). When I saw him perform I thought of the Youth Olympic Games and how that would’ve helped him.

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