A Sports Reporter’s View: 15 Olympics and Counting!

International sports are full of legendary rivalries. Think of the Ryder Cup. For overseas Americans, divided sporting loyalties are a way of life, particularly during the Olympics or the Wimbledon fortnight. In this Tanager Talk, Steve Wilson, European Sports Editor for the Associated Press, who has reported on the last 15 summer and winter Olympics and more than 20 Wimbledon tournaments, provides an insider’s view of these great sporting events.

The interview begins with the remarkable success Britain has achieved in recent Olympic games. From a single gold medal in Atlanta in 1996, Team GB finished 2nd in the medals’ table in Rio in 2016 with 27 gold medals and 67 overall. Thanks to the National Lottery, hundreds of millions of pounds have been invested in talent spotting, training and facilities with the specific aim of achieving Olympic success and the investment has paid off in spades. In fact, Britain was the first nation in the history of the games to improve its medal count after serving as host.

When asked about the recent games in Rio, Steve believes they were “not as good as they could have been”. Economic conditions had deteriorated since Brazil was selected, corners were cut, there were plenty of glitches and perhaps most damaging of all, were the large number of empty seats in the stadiums. While the games were a success overall, they lacked the excitement and atmosphere that made the London games so successful.

Regarding the selection for the 2024 Olympics, it’s now a race between the favored cities of Los Angeles and Paris, with Budapest as the outsider. Steve expects a fascinating and close race with the outcome in large part influenced by politics. Should Trump win, it would make it more difficult for Los Angeles although upcoming elections in France could also have an impact as well as the ongoing issue of security.

When asked about tennis, Steve sees Andy Murray gaining ground and possibly overtaking Novak Dokovic as world number one. Yet in the American men’s game, there is no American in the top 20 and Steve sees no one coming up. The women’s game fares better but Serena shows signs of slipping from her number 2 position and even rising players such as Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens are probably not “the next big thing”.

The American game of football, however, is thriving in the UK, with NFL teams playing to sell-out crowds at Wembley and Twickenham. While the teams enjoy playing here, finding the facilities good and the crowds knowledgeable, there is probably no truth to the rumor that the NFL is looking to establish a London franchise. Too many logistical and financial obstacles exist. Plus the NFL may have its sights set on even bigger markets such as China.

Finally, Steve tells us about his own career as an international journalist starting as the Editor of his college newspaper, the Tufts Observer, that landed him a job with the Associated Press in Boston and an Olympic specialization that has taken him around the world many times. As he puts it, “It’s been a great journey”.

You can follow Steve on the Associated Press site at Steve Wilson and on Twitter at @stevewilsonap.

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