Despite concerns about the Zika virus, facilities, faeces filled rivers and body parts washing up on its many idyllic and world-famous beaches, tens of thousands of people are set to descend upon Rio de Janeiro later this summer for the 2016 Olympics.
Among the mass of fans, Olympians, journalists and officials there will be those who are expected and unexpected.
Among the most unexpected will be the man who will take the reigns – quite literally – during the all-important (at least in the context of the Olympics) shooting competitions.
The man hosting the events will be none other than Shak Siyya, a man well-known among the British Asian media community, formerly known as the ‘Badshah of Nashta’ – in lieu of the fact that he was the Breakfast Show Presenter on the likes of Club Asia Radio.
Since 2014, Siyya has forged a successful new career as the host of innumerable shooting events for the International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) – as far removed from windowless radio studios as one can get.
“I began travelling around the world hosting tournaments in the 15 Olympic disciplines in Shooting Sport, across Rifle, Pistol and Shotgun back in 2014”, Siyya tells the UKAsian.
“After hosting 3 events in the USA, Kazakhstan and Germany, I led the Shooting Sport finals at the 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow which gained UK-wide coverage on the BBC. Following this, I then hosted the ISSF’s 51st World Championships (they take place every 4 years) in Granada, Spain. Here, I led all of the finals in the Olympic disciplines, plus 11 more for Junior athletes – a total of 26 finals across 9 days”, he adds.
It’s been a remarkable turn of events for the hugely popular British Asian radio presenter whose lot – as the HBO’s newest star Riz Ahmed articulated on Wednesday – had been so soul-destroyingly constricted in mainstream British media.
The ISSF however – an international body, mind, as opposed a British one – has been glad to tap into Siyya’s talents.
“As I’ve hosted ISSF events over the past two years, I’ve been asked by more and more individual federations to host their competitions and now have much experience at European and Asian Championship level. I added to my ‘Multi-Sport Event’ resume by hosting Shooting Sport at the 1st ever European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan.”
The journey has now led to the Olympics – the absolute pinnacle, as Siyya says.
“For a small sport like Shooting, the Olympics is the absolute pinnacle for the lives of the athletes, the greatest medals they can achieve in their sport. The very first medals in any sport that will be awarded during this year’s Olympic Games will be Shooting, on the 6th August 2016.”
And for those who find it necessary – from their comfy armchairs – to denounce shooting as “not a sport”, Siyya is the sport’s ultiate ambassador.
“Shooting Sport requires physical stamina as well as an incredible amount of mental strength. Constantly striving for the perfect shot, in the example of a pistol discipline, an athlete might be trying to hit a target the size of an English 5 pence coin, at a distance of 50 metres away – with the bullseye being a tiny dot in the centre of that”, he says
“Stabilizing the gun, keeping focus, controlling a racing pulse, increased heartbeats and extreme nerves – these are all things the athletes deal with during every single shot in a tense final competition”, he adds.
With that kind of passion, no wonder he’s travelling to Rio.
It’s also testament to the fact that one can overcome the ridges of a blinkered industry and re-invent yourself, if only one has the passion.