Glasgow’s moment in the global sporting spotlight is almost here and Bob Ballard will be behind the microphone once again for BBC Sport commentating on the diving competitions, one of the most highly-anticipated events at the Games.
Bob (pictured right) will be working on his fifth Commonwealth Games for BBC TV in Glasgow, having made his network debut back in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur, and is looking forward to linking up with regular commentary sparring partner Leon Taylor (pictured left) at the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh, venue for the diving at Glasgow 2014.
As well as being the BBC’s voice of diving for more than 15 years, Bob has covered many major sporting events for BBC TV and radio, among other broadcasters, over the past two decades, including Summer/Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, with his voice being heard on swimming, basketball and ice hockey events.
With Scotland gearing up to stage its third Commonwealth Games, Bob gives Sport On The Box his verdict on how he thinks the diving competitions will unfold in Glasgow, as well as his personal memories from covering five Commonwealth Games for the BBC.
Follow Bob on Twitter: @bobballardsport
SOTB: How excited are you about the return of the Commonwealth Games to the UK, particularly so soon after the euphoria of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics?
Bob Ballard: It’s fantastic to have another multi-sport event in Britain so soon after London – and if it is like Manchester 2002, it should be one to savour.
Great to see some of the rejuvenation of Glasgow too, much like we saw in the East End of London in 2012.
This will be your fifth Commonwealth Games as a commentator for the BBC. What would be your personal highlights from the past Games that you have covered?
Diving wise, my first in Kuala Lumpur back in 1998. Then a 13-year-old Alexander Despatie won gold for Canada and this tiny teenager was lifted head high by England’s Tony Ally for one of the images of the Games for me.
Swimming, which I covered for 5 Live over four Games, has so many but a head to head between England and Scotland in the men’s 4×200 metres relay literally had me on the edge of my seat and out of it!
You’ll be commentating once again on the diving competitions which are being held across at Edinburgh’s Royal Commonwealth Pool.
What’s your view on the choice of venue and what kind of atmosphere are you expecting inside the arena?
I have mixed feelings to be honest. It’s a shame that a diving pit was not constructed at the refurbished Tollcross Pool in Glasgow – apparently for financial reasons as it was started, but means that we will feel a bit remote from the major action as we’ll be some 42 miles away.
The upside is that I really like the venue for the diving in Edinburgh. I commentated on a World Series event there last year and they have done a fabulous job with the upgrade.
It will be noisy. I doubt there will be any spare seats and I imagine the good people of Scotland’s main city will be keen to show they are not an adjunct to the noisy neighbours.
Plenty of attention will be directed towards England’s Tom Daley. You’ve commentated on all his major championship performances, the most memorable perhaps being his bronze medal at the London Olympics.
How important were the two gold medals he won at the Delhi Commonwealth Games four years ago in shaping his career as one of the world’s top divers?
I think it was important to show that he could do it at Commonwealth level too.
It would be easy to relax in the absence of the Chinese and Americans, but he was very professional and brought the best out of Max Brick in the synchro.
Some within the sport have questioned whether Tom’s media commitments outside diving have affected his performances in competitions.
Do you think this is a fair assessment? What do you think he go on to achieve in Glasgow?
It’s a difficult one to quantify. Without doing Splash! or other media business, would he have been better on the 10 metre board.
I’ve seen him develop over the last nine years and Tom works hard, very hard. He wants to be the best.
He’s moved from Plymouth, and the comfortable surroundings of his family, to London for a new challenge and that determination is still etched all over his face when I see him compete.
He’s up against some great talents throughout the world, especially China, so it is not an easy job to be number one or even get into the top three.
I would like to see him win in Edinburgh, but that is no given.
Outside of Daley, who are your ones to watch out for among the home nations for success in Glasgow, and who do you think will be their biggest threats from a strong field of international competitors?
Whilst the headline writers will be looking to see how Daley does, I’m equally keen to observe how our new wonder boys Chris Mears and Jack Laugher do individually, and together, in the three-metre springboard.
Tonia Couch and Sarah Barrow in the women’s 10 metres have great chances to push for medals for England also.
Internationally, 2008 Olympic Champion Matthew Mitcham is back and will want to push Tom Daley all the way and the Canadians have plenty of strength too meaning the competition will be fierce.
You’ll be linking up again with former Olympic silver medallist, and Splash! judge, Leon Taylor for the BBC in Glasgow. What is he like to work with alongside you on commentary?
At the risk of them having to widen the entrance doors at the Royal Commonwealth Pool, I love working with Leon and this will be the eighth year we have done co-commentary together.
We are a little Test Match Special in the way we approach the commentary, in as much as we tend to have a laugh whilst attempting to be informative.
He has his designated role, I have mine. Even though this is my 16th year of covering the sport, he is the expert and I add the bread to the sandwich filling.
I hope we will do it for many years to come.
Away from diving, you have covered a variety of sports and events during your career, including the Paralympics.
How pleased are you that there will be a greater integration of para-sport events at these Games and how significant do you think this is for the Paralympic movement?
Any publicity the Paralympic sports get is all good by me.
I’ve seen it come a long way over the past two decades and, the fact that we have so many high profile Paralympians now, is a testament to how seriously we have taken it recently and it is not viewed, by most, as second rate sport.
Finally, what for you makes the Commonwealth Games special and do you think the event has a strong future going forward?
I fear for the Commonwealth Games if I’m honest.
We know that the Gold Coast in Brisbane has it next time but after that there is not a clamour to put nominations forward.
A cliché though it may be, they really are the ‘Friendly Games’ and, from a British nations point of view, being in a Village, is good preparation for the Olympics two years hence.
You don’t get that same feeling when you are staying in hotels for World or European Championships.
I sincerely hope that someone picks up the baton for 2022.
Glasgow 2014 is live across all BBC platforms – TV, radio and online – from July 23.