The ul­ti­mate in ‘spe­cial’

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page - COLIN VICK­ERY

BRUCE McA­vaney is ner­vous. To view­ers, he is best known as Mr Olympics, but the weight of ex­pec­ta­tion that comes with the ti­tle is as much a curse as a bless­ing for the 55-year-old in the lead-up to com­men­tat­ing at the Bei­jing Olympic Games.

McA­vaney is spend­ing up to six hours a day pre­par­ing for his com­men­tary du­ties on the open­ing cer­e­mony, ath­let­ics and swim­ming— soak­ing up sta­tis­tics, his­tory and hu­man-in­ter­est sto­ries.

It’s a stan­dard of ex­cel­lence he brings to all of his com­men­tary du­ties, but the Olympics— he has called at Los An­ge­les, Seoul, Barcelona, At­lanta, Syd­ney and Athens— is, to use one of his favourite terms, ‘‘spe­cial’’.

‘‘It’s the best thing you can ever do, but it’s also the most nerve-rack­ing and the most stress­ful and I hope I can pull off a good per­for­mance,’’ he says.

‘‘I still get ex­cited, but as the years go by there’s more pres­sure on you be­cause you’re se­nior and peo­ple rely on you.

‘‘There have been times in the past fort­night when I’ve felt like I’ve needed some fresh air. Some­times you be­come very in­ef­fi­cient if you over­load your­self. My brain has its lim­i­ta­tions. There’s only so much I can put in there.’’

This is an Olympic Games with its own set of chal­lenges for McA­vaney and Chan­nel 7, in­clud­ing the po­lit­i­cal con­tro­versy over China’s hu­man-rights record, heat and pol­lu­tion prob­lems, and me­dia-cen­sor­ship con­cerns.

For McA­vaney, the no­tion that ‘‘pol­i­tics and sport shouldn’t mix’’ is naive.

‘‘I haven’t been in­doc­tri­nated in terms of ‘be care­ful how you talk about it’,’’ he says.

‘‘I was ex­cited when China’s name was read out be­cause they’re an an­cient coun­try with a rich, in­ter­est­ing his­tory and you knew they would do their best to make it suc­cess­ful.’’

McA­vaney has only ever seen two Olympic sports live be­cause of com­men­tary du­ties.

‘‘I’ve only ever seen ath­let­ics and swim­ming and the open­ing and clos­ing cer­e­monies. I’ve never been to an­other event.’’

McA­vaney’s con­tract with Seven ex­pires at the end of this year and Nine and Fox­tel have the rights to the 2012 Olympics.

He says, though, he is happy to stay at Seven.

‘‘I love my job— it’s part of my fab­ric, part of my life and it al­ways will be,’’ he says.

‘‘I want to com­plete my ca­reer as well as I pos­si­bly can, whether that’s in three, five or 10 years.’’

Nine years ago, McA­vaney and his wife, Anne, left Melbourne and re­turned to Ade­laide to be with their fam­i­lies and raise their son, Sam, and daugh­ter, Alex.

‘‘I came home for per­sonal rea­sons and I’m so glad I did,’’ he says. ‘‘In the late 1980s my star rose a bit and with that, you can have your head turned.

‘‘Th­ese days, I en­joy the prepa­ra­tion as much as ever, I en­joy the per­for­mance as much as ever, but I prob­a­bly don’t seek the adu­la­tion as much as I used to.

‘‘That prob­a­bly comes with a bit of ma­tu­rity and be­cause I’m very happy at home with my kids and my beau­ti­ful wife.’’

Fun run:

Bruce McA­vaney hits the sand with daugh­ter Alex and son Sam.

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