It caught my eye today that it’s thirty years since the opening ceremony of the Barcelona Olympics. Thirty years that’s gone by as fast as that arrow that lit the flame on top of Mt Juic.
Without even checking the record books, Barcelona was Kieran Perkins at his peak, Kathy Watt winning gold on her road bike and sensational rowing on lake Banyoles where the term ‘Oarsome Foursome’ was born. The whole event lives on in my mind as a kaleidoscope of faces, movement and voices. And, most important of all, moments.
In 1992 Lisa Curry was still competing. Nick Kyrgios and Cameron Smith weren’t even born.
I wasn’t in Barcelona. At our community radio station through cold winter nights we relayed the Australian commercial radio coverage to our small and pretty tolerant audience.
Matt Ryan and Kibah Tic Toc – Gold Medal Winners in Barcelona
I think that two weeks really solidified my goal to get as far as I could go in the world of sports broadcasting. I found the idea of conveying the colour, movement, tension and drama of that Olympian scale to a wide audience through the simple tools of your own voice and words incredibly appealing.
In the annals of the ABC sports department where I worked for eighteen years, one piece of sports commentary is held up as a beacon of writing your own script on the fly. In the same process decoding something technical and somewhat arcane to a wide audience. A masterful piece of work.
In my book Around the Grounds the story goes like this
‘New Zealand led late in the final day of the three-day equestrian event but was faltering. It turned out that Matthew Ryan, though not Australia’s best show jumper, had a chance to take the gold if he could ride a clear round. In the ABC studio someone was needed to commentate the event at very short notice and in stepped the late George Grljusich from Western Australia. He quickly sketched a map of the course on a piece of scrap paper and set himself up in front of a TV screen. ‘Over at 1…clear at 2,’ he cried as Ryan and his horse Kibah Tic Toc made their way ever so carefully around the arena. I can still here the quaver of tension and excitement in George’s voice. It was a classic case of a broadcaster bringing a moment to life through improvisation and skill. Matt Ryan cleared all jumps bar the last, which was enough for Australia to win the gold. Back in our little studio in Canberra everyone cheered.’
I pressed on from Barcelona resolute in my goal. Just to be there to capture a little bit of the magic on air and, maybe, a find couple of minutes of tension and controlled chaos that will live on through time.