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Gail to Cover the Glasgow Commonwealth Games for BBC Radio 5Live

16 July 2014 - 4:10pm
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Having taken part in the Commonwealth Games myself, I can fully understand the emotions of all those athletes chomping at the bit, ready and waiting for their chance to shine in Glasgow from next week. In the run-up to these games though I’m getting excited for a different reason - I’m pleased to say I’m off to Glasgow to do my bit for BBC Radio 5Live’s coverage of the Games.
It’s been on the horizon for a little while but now it’s looming large. Soon I’ll be packing up and kissing my boys goodbye and heading to Scotland with a lot of work to do. I’m leaving on Wednesday 23rd July, and of all the days to jet off, that’s my birthday so it’ll be ‘happy landings’ rather than ‘many happy returns’ – I’ll have to wait for them!

I’m on a 7am flight from Luton that morning, so it’s straight off the plane and straight into some long days. The first thing on the agenda, of course, is the Opening Ceremony and I’ve been tasked with roaming the Glasgow Green Live Zone getting reactions from the crowds that have gathered to watch the fireworks. I’m looking forward to seeing how much these Games catch the public’s imagination.

After the excitement and anticipation of that first spectacular night, I’m up with the lark to prepare for the start of the badminton at the Emirates Arena at 9am. We’re running through until 6pm, so it’s a long old stint, but I’m used to that with the boys. I’ll be hanging out in the Mixed Zone trying to tease out the emotions of the players as they come off court and, given my experience in the game, I think I’ll be pretty good at it.

When I used to come off court on the big occasions I was in no state to give any kind of technical analysis of what had just happened. I enjoyed a few successes and when that was the case I most probably just gushed, but those times when I had lost were just awful. I wasn’t capable of explaining what went wrong, there was no chance of processing, no talk of failings in the game plan – no, my mind would fill with the most random things.

I remember once, having just exited a competition, not being able to shake the question of what my Mum was going to do with her ticket for the next round. (Some might say she sold it to a tout . . . . . . . but I couldn’t possibly comment!)

Anyway, that Mixed Zone interview wasn’t the best of my career but I think that having been in the shoes of the players I’ll be able to relate to their emotions well and, I hope, they’ll recognise that and open up. This is where I think the BBC gets it right with their sport coverage. They strike an excellent balance between journalists, who can dig down into the technical details, analyse things and explain them clearly to the audience, and people like myself, who have been there and done it and can empathise with the protagonists and draw out the human side.

A badminton competition of this nature is always a slow burner before things hot up towards the business end, and with the Emirates Arena being so close to the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome I’ve been handed a wonderful opportunity. The cycling at London 2012 was absolutely spectacular so I’m really excited at the prospect of grabbing the cyclists as they come off track and interviewing them live on air.

There will be some dashing about between the two venues but I know very little about cycling and it’ll be a real pleasure to learn about such an explosive discipline. The Velodrome events finish relatively quickly on 27th of July and by that stage the badminton will have had the time to get into its stride. British prospects look very good.

England are one of the top nations along with Malaysia, India and Singapore, while Scotland are always there or thereabouts. England’s Raj Ouseph could go well in the Men’s Singles so I’ll be rooting for him and his compatriots in the Mixed Doubles, husband and wife Chris and Gabby Adcock, have been seeded first at the Games. They could face stiff opposition from the Scottish pair, Robert Blair and Imogen Bankier.

At the time of writing, the draw hadn’t been made but should those two pairings meet up it’ll be a great one for the neutrals. The Scottish duo have beaten the Adcocks before and, being on home soil, with the crowd behind them it could make all the difference. If that big match-up does come to pass, I’d like to think I can get stuck into the in-depth, technical analysis because badminton still gets me animated.

Of course, I’m looking for as much English success as possible but I wouldn’t begrudge anyone doing well. Most of all I want to see badminton of the highest quality and I have a feeling we’re in for a treat on that score.

I still relish the build-up to big global events like this and there’s nothing like it when the action starts. I’m really grateful to the BBC for this opportunity and, despite it being a real wrench leaving my boys behind, I’m incredibly keen to get to Glasgow and bring Radio 5Live’s listeners the very first reactions of those involved in both the badminton and the cycling.