THE Olympics get underway later this month, with esteemed Bradford commentator John Helm off to Tokyo to cover them.

It will be a unique experience for the Baildon veteran, with strict Covid protocols in place over in Japan.

And the man who is renowned for being the voice of tournament football admits he could be covering virtually anything.

He laughed: "I go out there on July 19, and it's a lottery really. I'll certainly be doing the football, but I've often done rowing, canoeing and kayaking, and there was one year I seemed to do everything beginning with b, boxing, basketball and badminton.

"I'm at the mercy of the producers really.

"But it's not likely I'll do much, if anything, on site, as anyone coming from the UK has to do a 'soft quarantine'.

"I'm only there for 21 days, but the first 14 I'll only be allowed to move between my hotel and the broadcast centre, where I'm covering the games for a Singaporean company called Dentsu, broadcasting to all of Asia."

Asked whether he gets the same enthusiasm from covering some of these niche sports, as opposed to football, the 78-year-old said: "Funnily enough, you pay a lot more attention to it if you're not used to the sport, and you're more detailed in your approach.

"Anything with a ball really, the likes of tennis, football, golf, cricket, is second nature to me.

"But I can turn my hand to other sports easily enough, I covered Steve Redgrave winning rowing gold in Seoul in 1988 for example.

"You've just got to do your research, where you find out all you can, and pay attention to make sure you say the right thing."

There are a couple competing in Tokyo with local links, in cyclists Lizzie Deignan (Otley) and Tom Pidcock, who is from Leeds but has raced for Bradford team Paul Milnes.

Helm said: "It's all the more exciting when you're commentating on local athletes.

"I remember commentating on Jill Atkins from Bradford when she was part of the women's hockey team in Seoul, and I got on well with her dad Denis too, who played for Bradford City.

"Having Jess Ennis and Greg Rutherford from Yorkshire starring at London 2012 was a highlight, as was getting to catch up with Ashley Metcalfe at the Rio Olympics.

"He's from Baildon too and went to Bradford Grammar School, and I'd already commentated on him a lot, as he played first-class cricket at Yorkshire for years.

"But by Rio, he was the CEO of British Weightlifting. It was unexpected to catch up with him but a real highlight.

"This year, it's certainly a shame Alistair Brownlee won't be there, but even with the local ones who are, there are so many restrictions for the commentators that I won't get to catch up with them."

Helm cites Dina Asher-Smith as one of Britain's best medal hopes for Tokyo, and it is another sprinter who gave him his favourite Olympic memory.

He said: "One of my top three all-time favourite memories in sport was being there for Usain Bolt breaking the 100m world record in Beijing.

"How on earth he could blow apart the field like that I'll never know, but it was phenomenal to see someone who is the best of the best."

Helm has so many incredible memories from the Olympics, but he admits there might not be many more after this summer.

He confessed: "If I'm being brutally honest, this is likely to be my last Olympics, as I'll be 82 or 83 by my next one.

"You have to remember it's not always easy. I was out at the Rio Games in 2016 and was chatting to an older Swedish commentator who I'd known for donkey's years.

"The food was terrible and our accommodation was not the best either and he just said he didn't really want to end his career having to go through all this.

"Quite often the catering leaves a lot to be desired, and obviously this time I'll only be allowed out to the broadcast centre."

Helm added: "I think it'll definitely be my last Olympics, but I might have one more World Cup left in me.

"I'll be 80, but it's only a year away. I know it's out in Qatar, but I'll do it if they want me.

"Saying that, if I feel I'm not up to it any more, I won't go."

England have already played qualifiers for Qatar, but their focus now is on Euro 2020, where they have made the quarter-finals after beating Germany 2-0 on Tuesday evening.

A delighted Helm enthused: "I think they can go all the way.

"They must be favourites for the game with Ukraine on Saturday and there's no doubt they're in the easier half of the draw.

"People have moaned about negative tactics, but you can't just throw all your attackers at it at once and Gareth Southgate knows what he's doing.

"You have to be pragmatic sometimes and remember that tournament and league football are not the same thing.

"Here, you just have to find any way to win the seven games to become champions that you can.

"France have gone home, which was a huge shock, it was a surprise to see the Netherlands lose and now Germany are out.

"It's England's best opportunity for a long time."