BBC’s Gabby Logan: “Japan Was Like Nowhere I’d Ever Been”

One of the most respected and recognizable faces of British sportscasting, Gabby Logan has been in the media industry for more than two decades. During that time, she’s covered some of the world’s biggest sports events including the Olympics, Athletics World Championships, and both the football and rugby World Cups.

Next year, the 45-year-old mother of twins will be part of the BBC team flying out to Tokyo for what will be her fourth Summer Games as a presenter. Having never visited Japan before, the former professional rhythmic gymnast wanted to see what the country was like in advance so decided to visit here with her family in 2017. It was a trip she looks back on with great fondness.

“Japan was like nowhere I’d ever been,” Logan tells TW. “It was only a 10-day holiday, but in that period we saw some of the traditional elements that make the country so unique. Often you spend time in major cities around the world and it can feel a bit homogenous. Japan was completely different. As a family, it was lovely to experience that assault on our senses together.”

Logan, her husband and two children were in Japan for cherry blossom season. They stayed in Tokyo, Kyoto and at a traditional inn near Mount Fuji. Their jam-packed itinerary included visits to fish and vegetable markets, temples, a sumo wrestling training session and tea with geisha.

As well as being intrigued by the culture, they were impressed with the cleanliness of the streets. This was especially true of husband and former Scotland international rugby player Kenny Logan. He’s the current chairman of Clean Up Britain, an environmental organization lobbying for a national litter campaign in the United Kingdom.

“My husband hasn’t stopped talking about how clean Japan is,” says Logan. “We were all bowled over by the absence of detritus wherever we went. At the 2018 World Cup in Russia [and recent Asian Cup] much was said about Japanese fans clearing the stadiums and players tidying the dressing rooms but, for me, that wasn’t a surprise as I saw it firsthand with people carrying bags on trains, taking rubbish away with them. That sense of responsibility is an anathema to many people in Britain.” 

Before heading out to the Far East, one of the things Logan was most excited about was sampling local dishes. She wasn’t disappointed. Offering an abundance of gastronomical delights, Japan is a dream destination for food aficionados. In 2013 it became only the second country after France to have its national cuisine, known as washoku, listed by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. 

“What we thought was Japanese cuisine basically wasn’t,” says Logan. “We had hardly any food that English people would normally associate with Japan. I remember eating a curd, which sounded unattractive but was incredible. That was part of a nine-course [kaiseki] meal where we sat next to the chef and chatted. It was one of our highlights, but then everywhere we went the dishes were equally mesmerizing.”

Logan’s only regret about the trip was that she couldn’t stay longer, so she would like to return with her family for an extended stay. A keen traveler, the 2012 Tesco Celebrity Mum of the Year winner hopes to share as many global adventures with her children as possible to help broaden their minds. She believes moving around a lot when she was young benefited her, especially the 18 months she lived in Canada when footballing father Terry Yorath played for Vancouver Whitecaps.

“People aren’t just there as sports observers but as Olympic fans. They tend to go for the whole thing and like to absorb themselves in the culture of the country they’re visiting. Almost every nation in the world is represented so it makes for a magical atmosphere”

In 2003, Logan spent seven weeks in Australia presenting the Rugby World Cup. Due to work commitments, she won’t be able to attend this year’s tournament in Japan but will be watching from afar. She dreams of seeing Wales lift the trophy but also admits to having a soft spot for her husband’s side, Scotland. As for the hosts, she feels they’re capable of ruffling a few more feathers following their impressive performances in England four years ago, which included a stunning 34-32 victory over South Africa.

“Springboks fans aside, I think everyone fell in love with Japan after that remarkable game in Brighton,” opines Logan. “They’ve toured Europe a few times since and shown they can compete with higher-ranked teams. If they get off to a good start that will build momentum, and as the home side, expectations will rise. Another giant-killing is certainly possible. I just hope it doesn’t come when they face the Scots!”

Scotland and Ireland are the overwhelming favorites to qualify from Japan’s group, which also includes Samoa and Russia. Logan believes it’s the Celtic nation’s strength in depth that could ultimately make the difference.

“The top-tier countries have the luxury of being able to bring on a world-class prop or center in the last 20 minutes,” she says. “These ‘finishers,’ as Eddie Jones calls them, have the quality to get their teams over the line. With a much smaller pool of players to choose from it’s hard for sides outside the elite to counter that. Italy at the Six Nations is a prime example. They’re usually competitive for 65 minutes, then tire towards the end. That’s also what happened when Japan played England last autumn.

“Having said all that, I feel it’s going to be an open tournament with some unexpected results,” continues Logan. “It’s great for rugby to have a World Cup outside the sport’s traditional strongholds. There’s been a huge demand for tickets and I’m sure the delivery’s going to be phenomenal. It will be the same for the Olympics. I’ve spoken to people who are high up in the IOC and they say preparations are well in advance of how things were with the last Games.”

The first Olympics Logan attended was the Barcelona Games in 1992 when she was a university student. Her debut as an Olympic presenter came 16 years later in Beijing. While she doesn’t get the same kind of buzz working at the event as she did as a spectator, the BBC announcer is looking forward to seeing the action in Tokyo next year.

“The whole experience is special,” concludes Logan. “People aren’t just there as sports observers but as Olympic fans. They tend to go for the whole thing and like to absorb themselves in the culture of the country they’re visiting. Almost every nation in the world is represented so it makes for a magical atmosphere.”

Gabby Logan: A Snapshot of Her Life and Career

Born on April 24, 1973, Gabby Logan attended her first football game when she was just two weeks old – a 1-0 FA Cup final victory for Sunderland over Leeds United, for whom her father Terry Yorath was on the bench. She would often watch him both as player and coach, and in 1985 was in the stands with other family members when Bradford City’s stadium caught fire. Tragically 56 supporters died.

A sports fanatic, Logan’s finest moments as an athlete came in 1990 when she represented Wales at the Commonwealth Games in Auckland. She finished 11th in the rhythmic gymnastics competition but had to retire at the age of 17 due to sciatica. “I felt unfulfilled because I didn’t make the decision myself,” recalls Logan. “Anybody who doesn’t leave a sport on their terms finds it difficult.”

After studying law at Durham University, Logan began presenting on Metro Radio in Newcastle before getting an offer from Sky Sports. Climbing the ranks in a male-dominated industry, she established herself as a valued sports announcer. “I didn’t see myself as a woman in a man’s world,” she says. “I just worked hard and did my job.”

Away from sport, Logan has hosted various quizzes and reality programs, and has featured on many comedy panel game shows. A regular newspaper columnist, she’s also involved in numerous charities. The closest to her heart is the Daniel Yorath Appeal, which raises funds for the detection and treatment of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition that sadly took her 15-year-old brother’s life in 1992.

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