Andre Cotter with his dogs in the mountains

Me by Andrew Cotter

Andrew Cotter (MA 1996) has been a sports broadcaster for more than 20 years, covering high-profile events such as Wimbledon, the Open Golf Championship, Six Nations rugby and the Olympics. In 2020 this career ground to a temporary halt, but a second soon presented itself – Andrew's Labradors, Olive and Mabel, became the stars of his social media videos and the three became viral internet sensations. Andrew will be one of the chief commentators at the opening ceremony of the 2024 Paris Olympics this July. 

When did you first realise you had an interest in sports broadcasting?
Very late, actually – I had no idea what I was going to do while I was actually at Glasgow. It wasn’t until after I’d graduated that panic set in, and you realise that the Garden of Eden that is university life is not designed to last forever and you’re supposed to start working for a living. I didn’t discover I could do it until I actually started doing it, when I got a job at Scot FM radio station, based in Edinburgh.  

You’ve become a very recognisable voice in commentating – would you say your style is quite calm?
I’d like to think I’ve got a gear that I go to which is a bit over the top sometimes. If you’re doing rugby commentary and somebody’s scoring a try during the Six Nations, then you go to that gear. What you want as a sports broadcaster is the sound of your commentary to really mirror what’s happening on the pitch or the court or the course. 

Andrew cotter and Andy Murray interview

"Not everything in sport is sensational. There’ll be large parts of a sporting event which are fairly humdrum – then suddenly these sensational moments of drama. I hope that at those moments, I sound as excited as anybody. But it's also about trying not to assault the ears of the viewer.

Andrew with one of his favourite interviewees, tennis champion Andy Murray.

Which sport is your absolute favourite to cover? 
I don't have a particular favourite sport to commentate on, more favourite occasions – the big events. The ones where you know that millions of people are watching really focus your attention, because you want to do them justice. A big match in the Six Nations would be up there, or Wimbledon – the ones that go on at night on Centre Court. Or a really important Olympic athletics final.

What are you looking forward to the most about the Paris Olympics? 
I love the athletics, that’s sort of my stock sport when I’m at the Olympics. But the opening ceremony in Paris, which I’m covering with Hazel Irvine, is going to be spectacular in a way that I think only the French could produce. It’s not taking place in the stadium, it’s being held on the Seine. The parade of nations will be floating down on barges from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower. 

"Doing an opening ceremony at the Olympics is the ultimate sporting broadcasting challenge. I look forward to it with excitement and fear, and it’s the hardest broadcast that I do because of the amount of work involved. If you imagine 206 countries coming into the stadium, or rather, floating down the River Seine, Hazel and I have to say something about every one of those countries.

And how do you prepare for something like this?
Hazel will usually take the sporting pedigree and I will say something about the geography and the history or the politics of that country – which involves an enormous amount of work. I started months ago, because once I get into the summer, Wimbledon and the Open sort of butt up against each other, and then we go straight into the Olympics. So I’ve been studying about five countries a day ... that’s better than trying to do 206 in a week. 

How did your dogs Olive and Mabel go from being just your pets to stars of stage and screen? 
Well, it was a very odd situation that I was in; that all of us were in. All my work disappeared – the Masters, the marathon, Wimbledon ... I mean, in 2020 I had 12 days of work sports broadcasting. One day, as a joke, I was commentating on my dogs eating their breakfast. Then I put it out on Twitter. The thing is that everybody was focused on social media at that time, so it didn’t quite have the sort of wretched wasteland feel about it that it has now. It was our way of connecting.

"I put out this tweet and it went up to about 10 million views very quickly. It was getting such a reaction from around the world. MSNBC News in America were ending their nightly bulletins, whenever I put out a video, with, “Let’s check in with the great Olive and Mabel again.’” 

It was amazing. It went viral – spread so far and so wide and so quickly. Then I switched it in a different direction, to do little sketches with them. That began with the Zoom meeting. I think I’ve had more enjoyment and satisfaction from making a good Olive and Mabel video than I’ve had from doing any sports broadcast. 

A third career presented itself when you wrote your first book – Olive, Mabel and Me – and then a follow-up. Is writing something you’d like to do more of?  
My publishers would like me to write a novel now – but I would only put out something that I was proud of. The idea of selling books just because a celebrity has written them seems very strange to me, but that’s unfortunately the way it works – that’s why I got a book deal. Not that I’m a celebrity, but there was some public awareness of Olive and Mabel. 

What’s the first thing you do when you get home and close the door? 
I just spend ages chatting to the dogs. Their welcome is quite something, whether you’ve been away to the Olympics for weeks on end or you’ve just been down the supermarket.
What is your most treasured possession? 
Do dogs count as possessions? This is getting very dog-heavy ... how can I turn every answer around to dogs?! Well, it would be my laptop, really, because I spend my life on it. My embryonic novel is in there, waiting never to be released.
How would you spend a perfect day? 
Somewhere on a snowy mountain top, looking out at nothing but other mountain tops or the sea, just getting away from everything. And it would certainly be with my dogs, with both of them young and able to gallop for hours again. I think I’d prefer the pointier mountain tops of the west to the rounded mountain tops – but then one of the greatest days I’ve ever had was doing Braeriach and surrounding Munros with the dogs, out there for 12 hours.

Andrew Cotter hiking with dogs

Andrew, Mabel and Olive in their favourite place – remote hills "with not another soul around for miles and miles".

Memories of Glasgow 

I was not diligent, I don’t know how much I actually learnt – but I emerged with a 2:1 (in French & Philosophy). What I found university great for was that perfect transition between childhood and adulthood. That sort of hinterland where you think you’re an adult, but you’re not – it prepares you a little bit for the real world.

I was more of a QM person – GUU was mostly inhabited by rugger types, and I’m not one myself, even though I’ve commentated on rugby for years and it was big in my family. The QM was slightly more artsy, so I’d be there more often.

On a Thursday evening – because Thursday was the big night for students – we’d be down at a place called the Cul De Sac. That was our place to hang out, or The Living Room on Byres Road. They were genuinely wonderful times.

Sometimes there’s a real intensity of emotions when you’re at university. You might be experiencing sadness in relationships or whatever, for the first time, that you think is the most serious and awful thing that could ever happen to you. Of course, now you look back and go, what was I worried about?

I get quite nostalgic when I go back, thinking how things have changed. You used to go to the library or the reading room, try to get one of the texts out and be told, “You can’t study that bit at the moment, someone else has got the book out. We’ve got two copies in the whole of Glasgow.” Whereas now, you just find everything online.

Andrew is currently 20,000 words into writing his aforementioned first novel. “It’s something new and different,” he says. “I love doing my job but I think we always want to set ourselves different challenges; try and progress.” The opening ceremony at the 2024 Paris Olympics takes place on Friday 26 July – tune into BBC1 when Andrew will be taking up the commentary baton (Below: Andrew commentating at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.)

Andrew Cotter doing Beijing Olympics commentary

This article was first published June 2024.

Return to Avenue homepage