THE thing you dread most when you work at an Olympic Games is a tap on the shoulder.

It generally means your about to be thrown into the lion’s den.

"What do you know about Greco-Roman wrestling?"


"That’s fine. You’re on in 10 minutes."

Thankfully that hasn’t happened to me yet, but I have just answered a knock at the door (10pm) to be informed that I’m to be inflicted on the unsuspecting listeners of 105 countries for four hours of tennis tomorrow, followed by commentary on the women’s football match between North Korea and Germany.

Thanks Stu! He’s the boss.

I’ve never pretended to know a great deal about tennis, but mercifully TVNZ have slotted me in alongside the Dan Maskell of New Zealand, a splendid raconteur and easy-to-get-along-with chap by the name of Keith Quinn, and he’s looking after me in the commentary box.

In the space of two hours today I marvelled at the skills of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt and Serena Williams.

Federer looked a different class to my untutored eye. His lightness of touch produced a different sound to the grunts and squeals of the rest, just as golfers say there’s a different ring to a shot played by Tiger Woods.

I sat on centre court reflecting just how fortunate I am to be watching the creme de la creme in whatever sport I choose to attend.

Michael Phelps reigns supreme in the swimming pool. When you see him glide through the pool you know you are watching a living legend.

The poor chap from the Cook Islands looked as though he might drown when he flopped into the water, and was trailing by at least three yards by the time he struggled to the surface.

Our 14-year-old tiny Tom Daley finished eighth in the 10m platform synchronised diving when I saw him, but he’s honest enough to admit that London 2012 is a more realistic target in terms of medals.

Tom is dwarfed by Mark Foster, who had the privilege of carrying the Union flag and leading Britain’s contingent into the lengthy, but laudable opening ceremony.

Heaven knows how the athletes coped with standing in sultry heat, as the procession got closer and closer to midnight with the Olympic flame still to be lit.

It tickled me how the inscrutable hosts of the organising committee sat behind a huge office desk, wafting their fans, while politicians like Bush and Putin, never one to miss an opportunity, leapt to their feet as soon as the cameras were trained their way.

George W went to the basketball the other night and was caught on camera trying to work out which way up he should hold the stars and stripes flag someone had passed to him!

The actual lighting of the flame was phenomenal television, that old boy who was catapulted by trapeze into the sky and did a full lap must be exhausted even now – a week later.

EATING continues to be problematical.

A group of five commentators went to a local restaurant the other night, and we each chose a dish from pictures supplied without any English translation.

“Five” said the waitress, holding up five fingers.

“Five” we all cried back in unison.

And five we got – of each dish. Twenty five in all!

I might be a big lad but there was no way I could get through shredded duck in plum sauce, sweet and sour king prawn, salted beef, chicken and bean sprouts and port and cashew nuts with a mound of fried rice all by myself.

By contrast, another eating experience was made memorable by a charming girl who was just fascinated by the presence of a white European in a duck house close to Tianaman Square.

“Welcome to Beijing. Where are you from?” she inquired.

After revealing I was from England, she introduced me to her entire family who were out for Sunday lunch, and her father insisted on sending me extra dishes – and the inevitable green tea – to supplement my already substantial lunch.

They were gifts to show how pleased the people of Beijing are to welcome the world to China.

The whole world does indeed appear to be here – where on earth are Tuvalu, Palau and Micronesia?

And over one million people were rehoused in order for the International Broadcast Centre to be built next to the Bird’s Nest Stadium.

THERE are 21,000 media representatives here in Beijing.

So maybe you won’t be surprised to know that one of my working colleagues at TVNZ, Michael Bardsley, tells me he used to deliver the Examiner as a paper boy in Beaumont Park in the mid to late 70s.

I bet it was colder there than it is here in Beijing!