''No questions about her personal life,'' the publicist cautioned ahead of the Guide's interview with Leila McKinnon. But if the Weekend Today and Olympic presenter was under orders to not mention her marriage to Channel Nine boss David Gyngell, she failed at the first hurdle.
McKinnon was one of the few people in the know when Nine made its move on the broadcast rights to the 2012 Games. She was working in Los Angeles as Nine's North America correspondent and Gyngell, who was gearing up to return to Nine HQ in Sydney, told her he was heading to Switzerland to submit the bid. So she took time off work and found herself amid a celebratory party. It was, as she recalls, ''a bit of a coup''.
As she tells it, a former Channel Seven executive, Gary Fenton, who helped secure previous Olympics for that network, had ''pretended to retire but was working for us. We took our position by surprise, I don't think it was expected at all.''
McKinnon got the sport bug at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne before moving to LA. Later she contacted Nine's sport producers, offering to do reports
for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. ''I did the same after Vancouver. I took on more and more duties. It felt like a job audition to become a host.''
McKinnon is one of Nine's five hosts in London, joining Karl Stefanovic, Ken Sutcliffe, Cameron Williams and Mark Nicholas, as well as Eddie McGuire who is hosting for both Nine and Foxtel.
It's the human stories behind the athletes rather than their career statistics that most interests McKinnon. ''There are hundreds of amazing stories of incredible people … ridiculous mishaps of people tripping over after four years of training, incredible triumphs where someone has gone into the pool sick, without full lung capacity, and just dug really, really deep to win.''
A criticism of Olympic broadcasts is their tendency to focus on Australian athletes to the detriment of other nationalities. McKinnon acknowledges that the achievements of competitors from countries where sportspeople have fewer opportunities than here are part of the appeal of the Olympics. But with more than 400 Australian athletes in the Games it's a challenge to just cover them, she says.
''I think there's a small percentage of people that are a bit more broad in their interests, but I'd be pretty confident in saying that most Australians want to see Australian athletes compete and most of them want to see Australian athletes win medals.''
McKinnon says that like most of the world, she'll be glued to the 100-metre sprint competition where Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell will expectedly compete for gold, the swimming, the beach volleyball and the Anna Meares and Victoria Pendleton rivalry on the cycling track, ''which has me as interested as everyone else''.
She stresses that it's not just the well-known athletes ''whose incredible stories are going to play out in coming weeks. That's the great thing about sport, it's so unpredictable.''
Games of the XXX Olympiad
Coverage continues on Nine and Foxtel