London 2012

Martin Tyler's Olympics

My Olympics

Ahead of London 2012 we asked a range of personalities to let us know what the Olympics means to them. Sky Sports football commentator Martin Tyler recalls the time he held Olympic gold and why the Games are coming to his street this year...

What was your first memory of the Olympics?

Well my first memory is very clouded because my father built a television for the 1948 Olympics when I was two. I remember it as a strange contraption with no casing and a seven-inch green screen (how I did not kill myself I don't know... health and safety wasn't a big issue in the Tyler household!). I can't remember anything that happened, but it definitely worked!

What are your greatest Olympics memories?

Well it was a big thrill to work on the Olympics. I was in Moscow in 1980 and Los Angeles in 1984 and that was exciting. Also, I went to university in 1964 and I seemed to spend my first two weeks as a university student in front of the TV watching the Olympics. That was a nice way to break into university life! I only had three lectures a week and was able to fully take in what happened there. So it's always been part of my sporting interest.

Who would you class as the greatest Olympian of all time?

I loved Chariots of Fire! I've watched it over and over again and am hoping to see the stage show that's on at the West End. In more modern times, I'd pick any British gold medallist. I can remember people like Terry Spinks and Dick McTaggert winning boxing medals in 1956 and I saw Daley Thompson in LA.

How much of London 2012 will you be watching? Are you going?

Well, the cycle races on July 28 and 29 come past the end of my road, so it's not a case of me going, but very fortunately the Olympics are coming to us (and most of Surrey, I hasten to add). I'm really looking forward to that, even though my team Kingstonian are playing Fulham on July 27 and if I don't get home by midnight the roads will be closed. We've got to make sure there's no extra time and not too much hospitality! They've been out on the A224 already, making sure all the banks are nicely cropped and the road has been re-tarmacked; things that would never happen otherwise. I've got a lot to be grateful for really!

What do you think of football at the Olympics?

I have mixed feelings. I commentated on the final in 1980 and 1988 and I attended the final in 1984. Back when I was playing football before the distinction between amateur and professional, contemporaries of mine were playing to get into the Olympic squad. I never got anywhere near, but players that I played against in the Isthmian League were in the squad for the qualifiers in 1970 and 1974. Personally, I'd much rather it was a total under-23 team without any overage players. I think it would be more developmental for the game and there are plenty of very good 23-and-under players who would make it work. I find it hard to take on board the gold medals for players who are on Premier League wages, but then again I grew up with a different Olympics. I'm not criticising the way it is now though and if I get the chance to go to some of the football then I will, for sure.

Away from football, how do you think Team GB will fare?

The professionalism of all the leading athletes today is splendid. The dedication of the athletes matches the old Olympians who did it mostly as a hobby, rather than a working life. The effort put in by the BOA is wonderful and while I like to see the best person win in sport, I am British to the core and think we've got a great chance of a few of those best people being British. I have got some tickets for one night at the track-and-field and I'll do a bit of flag-waving that I can't do professionally when I'm on air. It's quite nice, in a way, not being involved in the broadcast because I can just be a supporter.

Do you think there will be a positive legacy for the country?

I was just about alive when it last came here in 1948 and it's a massive thrill to have it in this country. It's wonderful to see younger people getting caught up in it and I have no cynical thoughts about it. I really hope it is a huge success. I would have supported a cutback to an austerity Games like 1948, but the bid was put in during more fruitful times and it would have been more difficult to change it. I'm sure both the event and the performances will give us lots to be proud of and if the English and Welsh footballers come back with a medal I'll be very pleased to mention their feats when we get back on the air on Sky Sports.

Are you concerned about the legacy of the stadium?

The only thing I'm really against is a football ground with a running track around it. As a spectator or a broadcaster it just doesn't work and I hope if there is to be multi-sports at the Olympic Stadium then there is a way to get the spectators - and indeed the commentators - closer to the pitch. That's an issue, but I think things like making the Olympic Village into affordable housing are very good. There's a lot of good intentions and I hope we're looking back on August 12 thinking that every individual in this country has contributed in some small way to something special.

What sport would you like to see added to the Olympics?

How about five-a-side football? Or Futsal?

If you were to enter the Olympics, which event would you choose and why?

I would have to say football, I suppose, but I will leave you with a story of the time I had an Olympic gold medal for 24 hours. It belonged to David Wilkie, who won in in 1976 and when I was working for ITV in 1980 he was supposed to take it with him as a prop for the studio, but forgot it. I hadn't left the country, so was dispatched to his house and I took it to Moscow with a mixture of thrill and trepidation because it was a huge responsibility. I have to tell you that I did put it round my neck in my flat and tried it for size. I was very relieved to get off the plane, get it through customs and hand it over to David! That was the nearest I ever came to Olympic gold.