I can well remember exactly what it was that first got me interested in the Olympics and it was the the 1966 film Walk don’t run starring Cary Grant.

Now I don’t remember when it was that I actually saw the film but I know without doubt that having seen that movie, I wanted to experience the Olympics.

The film was set during the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo and was a wonderful story. Very funny and starred Samantha Eggar along with Cary Grant.

I am not sure if anybody showed this film in the run-up to London 2012, but they should have done. Read all about the film here

Over the years I have had the great pleasure of attending 3 Commonwealth Games – in Victoria Canada, Melbourne Australia and of course when they came to my City, Manchester in 2002.

Unfortunately for me, until 2012, I’d never got to experience the Olympic or Paralympic Games live.

As an avid lover of sport I have always enjoyed the Games on television with perhaps the 1992 Games in Barcelona being the most memorable, mainly because of the American Dream Team of top Basketball players including Michael Jordan, Scotty Pippen, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson and Larry Byrd.

I think the best Opening Ceremony was that of Beijing in 2008. That is up until London, but more on that later, and for me the Sydney Closing Ceremony was truly stunning.

When the winner of the 2012 Games was announced I was delighted that London had defeated Paris and won but I was also sad that it was not Manchester.

The City of Manchester had made two creditable bids for the Olympics in 1996 and 2000.

The 1996 bid saw Manchester go up against Belgrade, Melbourne, Toronto, Athens and Atlanta. That one was eventually won by Atlanta.

Manchester then bid again in 2000, against Beijing, Berlin, Istanbul and the eventual winners Sydney.

Both bids were led by Manchester legend Sir Bob Scott and I do not know exactly what he thought about the London Games but it must have been a bitter sweet feeling.

So I remember that day of the announcement. I was working at BBC Radio Manchester and there was great excitement at the time but I well remember that celebrations were cut short within 24 hours and the dreadful London bombings took place.

I have to say that the years leading up to 2012 were truly joyous ones for me. As a commentator I suspected that there would be lots of work around as the different Sports bodies tried to put themselves in a winning position.

Over the years I have been closely associated with Basketball and I guess the expectation was that I would be involved with the Olympics on the Basketball and/or  Wheelchair Basketball competition.

Now some people are not going to believe this, but very early in the whole process, I took the decision that I did not want to be involved with Basketball.

Why? I hear you say.

Well it was quite simple. Having done numerous big Basketball events over the years I know what the haters do and say if they spot something in the commentary that they did not like.

The treatment, for instance, of John Amaechi during the Games was quite appalling.

I really was not prepared to put myself through that.

Secondly, my style of commentary does not fit in with FIBA and the NBA who do not want commentary but want announcements.

There is a major difference which I think was perfectly illustrated in the 2012 Wheelchair Bronze Medal game at the North Greenwich Arena.

For long periods of the game Great Britain were seriously not in it and the was a total lack of atmosphere.

At time outs it was fabulous as the excellent Simon Hosannah got the crowd to do exactly what he wanted them to do. There were waves, sing-alongs, tributes to mums, dance competitions etc etc etc. It was wonderful but during the play it was at times not so hot.

It was awesome when GB scored and for a while at the start of the 3rd the place was rocking as GB began to fight back, but it didn’t last.

Following that game I received two tweets from Ben Cropper which made me smile.

@mikeshaft PS Please come back to the Paralympic World Cup next year. Your knowledge of basketball improves the experience for fans

@mikeshaft Great to hear your enthusiastic tones at wheelchair rugby finals day. You were missed at the basketball

Not everybody gets what I do but every so often my faith is reignited.

I did not attend any of the Olympics but watched hours upon hours on the BBC channels. The coverage was simply awesome with a whole channel effectively dedicated just to Basketball.

I enjoyed almost every aspect of the Games including GB Men’s awesome performance against Spain, losing by just 1 point. Spain would go on to win Silver behind the Awesome USA.

The other game that I thoroughly enjoyed was GB Women against France.

Now I have to tell you a story about this game.

I had written a facebook message to Lisa Hutchinson of The Sheffield Hatters asking if I could interview her for mikeshaft.com. She said yes and it was arranged for that afternoon. Lisa had been left out of the GB Women’s team for London 2012 and she had announcement her retirement.

It was obvious to me that the two were linked.

I arrived in Rotherham for the interview and spent the afternoon watching one of the most fascinating games I had seen for a while.

It was wonderful from start to finish and, in my opinion GB had that game won until a buzzer beating three took the game to overtime and then another buzzer beating three secured the win for France. They too would go on to secure a Silver in the competition behind the Awesome Americans.

We eventually got the wonderful interview done and I drove back to Manchester as Stevie said…Overjoyed!  You can read it here.

So the years move on and it is now 2010 and I am asked by John Timms of MLS if I was able to host a Wheelchair Rugby event at the EISS. I checked my diary and I am delighted to say that I was available and agreed to do it.

This was my first ever experience of Wheelchair Rugby and I was hooked. I had over the years done lots of Paralympic Sports including of-course Wheelchair Basketball at the Paralympic World Cup in Manchester 5 years running.

When I saw Wheelchair Rugby I knew that this sport was the one I wanted to do at the Games in London.

Why? I hear you say.

Well I was convinced that this would be one of the Legacy Sports of the Games. How could I know that? Well it was simple, I knew what I felt when I saw it for the first time and I knew I could bring that passion over at the Games. If there were people in the Wheelchair Rugby venue for the Games, we were going to have a party.

I made it known that I really really wanted to do Wheelchair Rugby. Further, I raved about the Sport to anyone who would listen.

I knew that my interest was out there as I would get a call from Channel 4 asking if I was available to commentate on a tournament being held in Cardiff (I think).

Unfortunately I was not available.

Eventually during 2011, I would get a call from LOCOG the organisers of the London 2012 Games asking if I would be interested in Commentating on a Test Event at the Olympic Park.

It wasn’t Wheelchair Rugby but I said YES!

More to come.


Mike S


PS – As I write this Andy Murray has just won his first Grand Slam.  This truly is the Summer that Rocked!




Photo Credits

Dream Team – Cleveland.com

Sydney Games here


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