The ultimate in ‘special’
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.’’
Bruce McAvaney hits the sand with daughter Alex and son Sam.