The Sydney Games were an unusual event for me, because they were the first that I experienced at least partially by radio. Although I was well used to listening to sport on the radio – in fact, in the days of limited live sport on television it was the way that I experienced most sport – because the Olympics were always televised anyway I had never had to follow them in any other way.
Sydney changed that, because so many of the events were on early in the morning UK time, I ended up listening to a lot of what was going on as I drove to work each day. In fact, one of the legacies of that Games that impresses me is that the two presenters from Radio Five Live that I heard most often, Nicky Campbell and Stephen Chittenden, still seem to be in the same jobs a dozen years later.
That said, radio access didn’t stop me being surprised when I turned on the news on the second evening to find that Jason Queally had won Britain’s first gold medal of the contest. After only one gold at Atlanta this brought a broad smile to my face.
My memories, though, are probably much the same as those that everyone else has of this event – Redgrave’s fourth gold medal. The final must have been pretty early in the morning Sydney time, but at home it was late enough for Helen to take herself off to bed rather than watch as Redgrave, Matthew Pinsent, James Cracknell and Tim Foster rowed their way into the record books. As they crossed the line I jumped for joy and almost punched a hole in the ceiling.
Curiously, though, that isn’t my most vivid memory. That came the next night. Helen and I had been out for dinner with our friends Rachel Hibbert and Barry Griffiths and were listening to the early commentary from Australia as we drove home. That in itself was unusual. Being teetotal, Helen was always the designated driver and that meant that the choice of listening usually rested with her, but something must have led to the radio being tuned into the Olympics instead. As we turned into our road, the final of the mens’ eight rowing began. We reached our home before they rowers had even reached halfway. Which meant we sat in the car, breath bated, until the race ended, at which point we began whooping and cheering, entirely forgetting that it was almost midnight. Fortunately, we were not the only ones up and shouting. It was that kind of win.