By Nabillah Akhtar
I felt a light tap on the shoulder accompanied by a gentle hush. The year was 1996 and my paternal Grandfather was watching the Atlanta Olympic Games on the television at my childhood home in Manchester -ďLetís watch this behti, you can play as much as you want with your dolls after itís over.Ē Although he had migrated from Pakistan in the í60s, I had never witnessed anyone more patriotic than my Grandad. He was a proud man who wasnít the most active when it came to fitness, yet would spend most of his summer, every four years, in awe of Team GB at the multi-sport event. He was literally glued to the TV set. As a bored seven-year-old I never truly understood his fascination, but as a 30-year-old well into her careerÖitís something thatís stuck by me throughout adulthood.
A young Rehmat Khan came to this country to improve his familyís life back home and worked tirelessly in the cotton mills in what was then an industrial city, and never did he imagine just two generations later his granddaughter (the one who shamelessly never wanted to watch the Olympics with him) was to forge a career in the Olympic movement and would eventually end up with Team GB at the games during a pandemic.
Now, as a young Muslim girl, a career in sports and media isnít something youíre really encouraged to do. Itís the financially secure professions such as medicine, law and accounting that are preferred but I think he always knew Iíd never have of gone down that path.
Now, as a young Muslim girl, a career in sports and media isnít something youíre really encouraged to do. Itís the financially secure professions such as medicine, law and accounting that are preferred but I think he always knew Iíd never have of gone down that path. I know what youíre thinking, weíve got another Jaswinder from ĎBend it like Beckhamí on our hands. Youíre probably even laughing, but from having actually worked in the media industry for ten years, I can now see that not many people from backgrounds like mine know that there are a multitude of jobs available in sport behind-the-scenes. Not everyone has to be the athlete or ďtalentĒ per se.
I was also one of the lucky ones where my experience in digital media (backed by a decent grade on a journalism degree) had unknowingly led me down a career trajectory I had never even thought of. I became a media officer for Great Britainís taekwondo squad in my early 20ís and before I knew it, had progressed to cover Tokyo 2020 as a digital content executive with Team GB.
Itís funny because the one thing I remember my Grandad telling me off for has now benefitted me - a once chatty child had been hired to communicate with some of the best athletes in the country, if not world!