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SBD Global/August 6, 2012/Olympics

BBC's Clare Balding Impresses With Olympic Coverage

BBC commentator Clare Balding carries the Olympic torch through Newbury on July 11.
Not everyone can be like BBC's Clare Balding, a broadcaster with "such an exceptional skill set she makes everyone else in her orbit seem third rate -- especially if they actually are third rate," according to Jan Moir of the London DAILY MAIL. Balding is always "focused, briefed, knowledgeable and accomplished." Whether interviewing proud parents or "guiding us through the watery runners and riders, she does it all with intelligence and flair." Most importantly, she does not treat the BBC audience "like idiots." Balding is "the exact opposite of He Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken (G*ry L*n*ker), whose flinty self-interest and laddish reactions are all too brutally exposed in his role as main Olympic anchor" (DAILY MAIL, 8/1). In London, Stuart Heritage wrote the "biggest national treasure to emerge from the 2012 Olympics may be BBC's Clare Balding." And "without exaggeration, Clare Balding has become the Rageh Omaar of the 2012 Olympics." Balding's "unofficial coronation" came when the Daily Mail's Jan Moir wrote a "gushing piece" entitled "Why can't everyone be Clare Balding?" To be clear, "praise from Jan Moir is not easily won." Show Moir a "shoebox full of kittens and she'd find a way to claim that the kitten/shoebox trade was tearing at the very fabric of middle England." However, when faced with Balding, Moir was "reduced to a blushing mess for seven foaming paragraphs." And she is not the only one. Viewers in the U.S., who have turned to streaming the BBC's Olympic output "as an alternative to NBC's controversial coverage, have found themselves being charmed senseless by Balding, as well." Sports blog Deadspin even went as far as calling her interview with Gold Medallist Chad Le Clos' father "the media moment of the Games so far" (GUARDIAN, 8/2). Also in London, Marcus Townend opined "everyone is assuming, probably correctly," that Balding will be "crowned the first lady of C4's new racing package when it takes over all the terrestrial coverage of the sport next year." But what would be another new female face to the channel is "also rumoured to have been included in the presentations among the production company's vying for the role of delivering the station's coverage of the sport next year." Francesca Cumani, daughter of Newmarket trainer Luca Cumani, whose broadcasting work includes CNN and Australia's Seven (DAILY MAIL, 8/5).

CELEBRATIONS ENSUE: The DAILY MAIL wrote that as Great Britain has been hauling in the Olympic medals, BBC's "usually reserved, measured team of pundits were going loopy in their studio inside the Olympic Stadium in Stratford." Denise Lewis could be seen "jumping and dancing hysterically," while fellow Brit and former 110m hurdler Colin Jackson was "cleverly overwhelmed." The usually "cool, calm and collected Michael Johnson" -- legendary American four-time Olympic Gold Medallist -- could be heard repeatedly shouting "Go get 'em baby!" as Mo closed in on history (DAILY MAIL, 8/5).

BBC'S WOMEN SHINE: In London, Euan Ferguson wrote it has been "a fine week" for the BBC's team of female commentators. Balding and Hazel Irvine are predictably "astute, fast, phenomenally interested and thus help us become the same, and feel the need to talk only when they need to talk; and when they do, they say something interesting, something obliquely insightful and marvelously free of laziness or stereotypical prejudice, which leaves some of the men." Lineker said, "An excruciatingly exact sport, which is why the Chinese are probably so good at it." Ferguson continued: "He's trying. I'm sure he is, but still sounds a little...1980s." Balding's highlight this week I think was her bonding with Bert, "the exuberant father" of Chad le Clos, who had just beaten Michael Phelps, and who screamed delight at his "beautiful, beautiful boy...never been so happy in my whole life...every time I see him I just...oh f***!" He paused for a half-breath second and anxiously inquired: "Is this live? A beaming and very human Balding simply replied: "Yes, but you're all right, you're all right." There is "strength in depth for the women." Shirley Robertson has somehow managed to "bring life, knowledge and windblown fun to the most exhilarating yet spectator-unfriendly sport on earth." Gabby Logan, the unofficial Bond girl, even looked like a Bond girl on Wednesday night, hair coiffed high," but it is her "knowledge and humour and personable nature" that makes this highlights program "a must." She "infuses the programme with friendship, mainly directed at us" (GUARDIAN, 8/4).

RADIO COVERAGE: Also in London, Miranda Sawyer wrote a kind of "celebratory madness" has taken over 5 Live, which is enjoying itself so much that it may start cheering the cleaners." It is the "hilarity of the whole occasion: Colin Murray at the dressage, speaking in a whisper in case he interrupts a horse pirouette." Alan Green, "Mr. Football, getting OTT about rowing." On the BBC Radio's "5 Live" sports show, "even the boring bits are funny," including men's hockey. "Great stick work," was the deadpan comment, before the presenters switched seamlessly to what color shorts everyone was wearing. On Radio 4, The Now Show reacted live to the Olympics late on Monday night. They were "making jokes about the Olympics Opening Ceremony when we'd all moved on to Wiggo getting drunk after his Gold." And on Radio 2, Zoë Ball and Richard Bacon have been "enjoying themselves to the max with their 10-til-midnight weeknight Olympics show, Go for Gold." This is a "terrifically enjoyable programme, light-hearted, upbeat, with both Ball and Bacon capturing the nation's giddy, on-the-edge-of-tears mood" (GUARDIAN, 8/4). 
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