Meet the Ipswich man who covers the Olympics and works with Ronaldinho
- Credit: James Tzanoudakis
An Ipswich journalist has opened up about his extraordinary journey from humble beginnings at BBC Suffolk to covering the Olympics and working alongside footballing legend Ronaldinho.
Ipswich-born James Tzanoudakis has had quite the career since his work experience placement at the East Anglian Daily Times.
He earned his first job at BBC Radio Suffolk in 2011, before becoming a regular face on screen for the Premier League.
The sports fan has since interviewed tennis icons Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, worked side-by-side with Ronaldinho and had his videos viewed by millions worldwide.
Stints with other BBC stations around the Midlands followed his stint in Suffolk, before he took on jobs with BBC East Midlands Today and the national BBC News team.
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But going national was still just the beginning for the young newshound, with his face soon broadcast globally after securing a job with the Premier League for its international channels.
It was in that job he became deeply involved with Leicester City, when the Foxes won the league to the shock of the world in 2016.
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"Literally millions and millions of people would watch it," he said.
"It is like the international equivalent of Sky Sports News, it just isn't broadcast in the UK.
"I covered Leicester the year they won the league. It was absolutely amazing.
"I'm an Ipswich fan – my first team is Ipswich Town and my second team is Ipswich Town Under-23s – but when Leicester won the league they very much become a part of everyone's hearts.
"Going into a press conference with Claudio Ranieri, he just used to make everyone laugh. It was the same with the players.
"You get to know the players doing that job, you feel like you are a part of that ride. It was such a nice thing to be a part of – I almost got in Jamie Vardy's house the night they won the league."
James later went to cover his beloved tennis at the Rio Olympics in 2016, commentating on Andy Murray's gold medal win.
From there, he now covers sporting events around the world, including the US Open.
It was while covering the tennis that he secured a courtside interview with sporting hero Roger Federer.
He said: "When you interview footballers, I don't know – footballers are footballers, aren't they? Once you get over the initial awe, you realise they are just normal people.
"But then you meet someone like Roger Federer and you realise that person in front of you is pure greatness personified.
"There is a real sense of occasion. That man is such a gentleman.
"Being stood next to him and feeling that you're standing next to history's greatest ever sportsmen... That was one of the most intense moments of my life."
Federer is far from the only sporting legend he has met, mind.
He now works alongside Ronaldinho covering teqball events, a relatively new sport combining football and table tennis.
A viral video of Ronaldinho outplaying him on the ball went viral on social media, with more than 20million views.
"The first time I worked with Ronaldinho was in China," he said.
"He invited us to after parties and we would hang out with him and his crew.
"I'm sure if we see each other again we'd slap hands and hang out. I'm looking forward to hopefully working him with again when the sport resumes after the pandemic."
James also had his hands on one of the hottest tickets in the world for 2021 – a flight to Tokyo to cover the Olympic Games as a stadium announcer.
"Tokyo was such an amazing experience," he said. "A unique and bizarre experience as there were absolutely no fans.
"Hopefully we will never have anything like that ever again, it was so surreal.
"I'm now working with Dunlop for a tennis series and I'll be working at the US Open doing round up shows with professional players."
Travelling the world covering sporting events has come at a cost, mind.
Last year he was left with almost no work – but the jet-set lifestyle of travelling around the world has seen him catch coronavirus twice, despite taking all necessary safety precautions.
"This year has just gone mental – it has absolutely exploded," he said.
"Last year I lost pretty much all my work overnight, it was devastating. But this year it has all come back.
"Travelling has been tough, I've caught Covid twice. It is not a pleasant experience. But fortunately it has been an amazing summer for me and I am riding on the wave of success.
"I try to keep grounded with everything – you have to take care of your mental health travelling the world, covering these events, and then just coming home.
"But I love it. I absolutely love it. I do this job because I want to serve the sporting community – I want to be that bridge between players and the fans."
James added he is looking forward to seeing what the future holds.
"I never expected to get this far in the industry and I am just going with it," he said.
"Whatever happens next, happens next and I am going to keep going.
"Graeme Mac gave me a call to come and work with him at Radio Suffolk, without that, who knows where my career would have gone."