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Balding loss sad epilogue for BBC sports coverage

It's a long, long way from here to Clare.

No, not the emigrants lament, but a spate of ululation from the BBC who have lost their indefatigable Clare Balding, the very last of the Mohicans and now adorning the ether of Channel 4.

This is surely an epilogue to the mass emigration of sports coverage from what was once as sacrosanct as the hallowed antiquities of Tower Bridge and Big Ben.

Of course, the BBC made mistakes. It will never be forgotten when John Snagg informed us that, in the annual boat race, "the winner will be either Oxford or Cambridge." Or David Coleman, believing his microphone was turned off, offering "I hope the Romanian doesn't get through, because I can't pronounce her bloody name."

But, overall, the BBC sports coverage was the archetype, setting the standards worldwide. Something I'll never forget was a duty 30 years ago in South Africa and listening to a local English-speaking plummy voice introducing a song from "the BBC's 'Top of the Pops' -- Finbar Furey and 'Sweet Sixteen'."

Remember the stellar qualities of their commentators -- John Arlott, Raymond Glendenning, Cliff Morgan, Bill McLaren, Peter Alliss, Des Lynam, Peter O'Sullevan.

But BBC sport has effectively departed into the great big microphone in the sky. So, we'll watch with interest Channel 4 dipping their toes into the briny and their and Clare's coverage of the Paralympics.

Nice to welcome Jon Snow, though there are some misgivings with some inordinate commercial breaks and the appearance once again of those two on their motorbikes inundating us with the mysteries of 11811 -- and obliterating the march into the stadium of some of the Chinese and Hungarians in the process.

But we do have to suffer for our sports, don't we?

The BBC's coverage of the Olympics and it's general coverage of athletics, was -- and is -- jingoistic to an unbelievable degree. There were more than 200 nations competing in London -- almost 11,000 competitors -- but we got an almost exclusive account of the progress of the GB team.

However, if we had the doubtful privilege of being the recipients of the coverage of the French, German or the USA teams, the focus would be just as concentrated on the 'home' variety. That's life, I'm afraid.

To get a fair cosmopolitan record, RTE, fair dues, is excellent. True, they only had to react to one gold medal but, with the resources available, they did a fine job.

And let's also pay a deserved tribute to the best of the pundits -- the RTE lot -- be it boxers, swimmers, athletes or the miscellaneous people from some minor sports.

One final gripe.

I find it irritatingly humorous that the BBC weather forecasters studiously manage to avoid any mention of the weather over Ireland, even when the southerly wind is blowing our rain over them. Sky always includes us without any diplomatic gaffe. Is it MI5 or MI6 who forbids it?

The late Gore Vidal, just before he passed away, said: "Television is so desperately hungry for material that they are scraping the top of the barrel."

Irish Independent