Twenty mins before we go live and right on cue we see his personalised helicopter circles the stadium.
The crowd goes wild and suddenly everything felt very real. Neymar Jr was arriving. Immediately you see security men appear everywhere shuffling people around and making way for his arrival. Ten minutes before live I'm beckoned upstairs to greet and brief Neymar Jr. Time was tight. It took forever to get to his room and he wasn't even there yet. I watched the clock ticking down and could hear the producers in my ear panicking.
The UCI downhill championships were airing before our show, we had a short opening title sequence but it was a hard start. Bang on midday.
There was no way we could delay it.
Normally twenty minutes before live I'm on my spot wired for sound and waiting. Instead as it approached five minutes to live I was stood in a room surrounded by security still waiting for Neymar Jr. I knew he wouldn't make it and if I didn't leave now I wouldn't make it either. I heard his agent arrive and as she explained that Neymar Jr still had to get changed - I bailed. I ran out the room and went back to the original plan I always had in my mind. I'd be opening the show alone.
As I rushed down the stairs I crossed paths with a small circle of people literally throwing clothes over their heads. Neymar and his team were in the building and were changing whilst walking. They too knew of the epic rush.
I rushed on to my spot and as I stood in place, out of breath and nervous the 30 second countdown in my ear began. I had made it just 30 seconds before live. My sound man is still pulling a wire through my clothes and I'm feeling very flustered. Suddenly it changed and I was overcome with sadness. I just felt really really sad. Although I never believed I'd open the show with him, I really wanted to. I really truly wanted him to be there and thought it would be the most incredible moment of my career welcoming a live audience to Neymar Jr's Five World Final...with Neymar Jr. I was gutted.
I hear my producers voice in my ear say "10 seconds, smile Layla" and as I catch my breath and put on a fake smile for the camera I felt a hand on my shoulder.
The crowd went mental. Screaming and crying. The sheer volume was overwhelming.
'Oi' he says. I turn around and Neymar Jr is stood right next to me. He is super calm and I immediately run through with him what we're doing. He can barely hear me through the screams and as I hear a faint countdown from 8, 7, 6 , I scrap his lines make a last minute change to script and say NEYMAR 'você vai falar seu nome' - Just say your name. I'll say Layla Anna-Lee and I'll point to you and you just say 'I'M NEYMAR JR' that's all...3, 2, 1 and we're live.
I had ten seconds to brief Neymar Jr and now I'm opening a live broadcast with him. He smiles a huge smile like a natural and, as I say my name, someone from the crowd shouts 'Te Amo Neymar' he turns and completely forgets to say his own name. It was hilarious and somehow we got away with it. He laughed and the day continued in his fun loving spirit. Nothing on time, but everything joyous and thrilling in every way.