Nancy Gillen

To mark my last day at insidethegames, I wrote down every trip I embarked on during my two-and-a-half years with the company.

The volume is impressive, in spite of the curtailment of travel over the past 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I donned the pink and green of insidethegames on 27 trips in total, visiting 15 countries in the process. This included multiple journeys to Lausanne, Turin, Budapest and - to my delight - Monte Carlo. As a history lover who studied the Soviet Union in detail at university, I was thrilled to visit Russia on three separate occasions, with two of these stints in Siberia. 

It was also great fun to cover multi-sport events, whether it was the 2019 European Games in Minsk, or just a few weeks later, the Pan American Games in Lima. There were often times in the job when I had to pinch myself. This was particularly true at the Teqball World Championships in Budapest when I came face to face with Ronaldinho, surely one of the most iconic footballers of all time.

These trips were spent contributing to the coverage of international sports politics which insidethegames is so known and respected for. I was given the chance to attend an International Olympic Committee Session and several General Assemblies, interview Presidents of International Federations and other important figures, and ask questions at significant media conferences. 

A particular highlight during my time at insidethegames was meeting Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho ©ITG
A particular highlight during my time at insidethegames was meeting Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho ©ITG

Please forgive the self-indulgence of this blog so far, but the trip down memory lane highlights the opportunities afforded to reporters of insidethegames. I don’t think there are many other jobs where you are immediately out on the road and associating with the key figures in sport. It is being thrown into the deep end in the best possible sense.

This was indeed the case for me. I was offered the junior reporter role at insidethegames just three months after my graduation from the University of Leeds, where I had studied International History and Politics.

I had the ambition of a career in sports journalism for two reasons. 

The first is a bit of a cliché and will definitely please the likes of Sebastian Coe, who spent much of his time as President of the London 2012 Olympics talking about building a legacy for the Games.

But, as someone who was born in London and grew up just outside the capital, the staging of the Olympics in my backyard was genuinely an inspiring and life-changing moment for 16-year-old me. 

I was fortunate enough to attend a number of events at the Games and decided that I wanted to be involved in this in the future, in some capacity.

Secondly, I had a strong sense of injustice about the lack of coverage of women’s sport. I felt that if I embarked on a career in sports journalism myself, I could go some way to change this. Luckily, I was showing promise in subjects such as English at school, and so a job writing about sport seemed achievable.  

Trips with insidethegames included two visits to Siberia ©ITG
Trips with insidethegames included two visits to Siberia ©ITG

In this sense, the job at insidethegames has been perfect, allowing me to become fully immersed in the Olympic Movement. Of course, it is hard not to become slightly cynical once the dark undercurrents of the sporting world are revealed. 

Writing about doping allegations, governance issues, corruption or abuse cases is a common occurrence when covering the Olympic Movement. Nonetheless, it has still been an honour to observe and report on the machinery of one of the greatest sporting events in the world.

In addition, I have often been able to tackle issues of gender equality in sport. Insidethegames reports on all sport, and as a result, men and women’s events automatically have equal coverage. But I have enjoyed pointing out and discussing examples of inequity in the sporting world, especially in sports governance. 

There is still a long way to go before gender equality in sport is achieved, but things are slowly starting to improve and female representation on many Boards and Executive Committees is on the up. I hope I was able to contribute to this progress in my own small way. 

As I mentioned before, I was very inexperienced when I started at insidethegames and it was a steep learning curve to get up to speed with the workings of international sport politics.

It has been a joy to cover the Olympic Movement with fantastic colleagues ©ITG
It has been a joy to cover the Olympic Movement with fantastic colleagues ©ITG

This was made all the easier by the fantastic colleagues I have worked alongside, especially insidethegames stalwarts Dan Palmer, Liam Morgan and Michael Pavitt. They have often been fountains of knowledge on complex topics and it is fair to say I have learnt from the best.

It has also been a joy to work with the remainder of the team, albeit virtually for the past year. Neil Shefferd, Ali Iveson, Michael Houston and Geoff Berkeley are all extremely talented editors and reporters and as a result I know insidethegames will go from strength to strength.

The freelancers - Mike Rowbottom, Philip Barker, David Owen, Alan Hubbard and Brian Oliver - have offered invaluable advice and have often been entertaining companions on trips. I would also like to thank Rebecca Lovegrove and Alison Sidaway for their help and support, which often takes place behind the scenes.

I would particularly like to thank editor Duncan Mackay and managing director Sarah Bowron for taking a punt on an inexperienced 22-year-old straight out of university, and for their indispensable guidance and advice during my time with insidethegames.

It is strange to be leaving a job virtually, but such is the reality of living through a global health crisis. I am moving on to a role covering women’s sport, but will still be keeping a keen eye on developments in the Olympic Movement. I am particularly intrigued to observe as Tokyo 2020 organisers battle to stage the Games against the backdrop of a pandemic. 

If you would like to stay in touch, I can be found on Twitter here