REVIEW 2012: A Golden Year of Sport

Sport On The Box looks back at 2012 – A Golden Year of Sport.

It was the greatest of all years for British sport, with unparalleled success in so many fields and a home Olympics which the rest of the world hailed as one of the best ever.

The images from a memorable 2012 will linger long in the collective consciousness and SOTB reviews a year that was sprinkled gold by so many unforgetable TV moments.

Bradley Wiggins riding home in yellow on the Champs Elysee at the Tour de France, Andy Murray triumphant at Flushing Meadows, Super Saturday and that amazing, emotional night in the Olympic Stadium, the Velodrome a riot of colour, noise and delight.

The list has to end somewhere but it is not easy.

For so many sportsmen and women, as well as broadcasters, 2012 truly was as good as it gets.

Take a look back at an incredible 12 months that will long be remembered as British sport’s golden age.

LONDON 2012 OLYMPICS – BBC

In a year of such thrilling highs, for many years to come 2012 will be remembered for what took place during two weeks in which London 2012 captured the hearts and minds of a nation.

The tone for 16 days of memorable with Danny Boyle’s breathtaking opening ceremony.

Who can forget ‘Super Saturday’, a night were it rained British gold in the Olympic stadium for heptathlete Jessica Ennis, long jumper Greg Rutherford and the incomparable Mo Farah in the 10,000m.

All of them swept on by a roaring crowd whose passion brought a lump to the throat.

Farah made it a golden double in the 5,000m and celebrating zanily trackside with Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter who successfully defended his 100m, 200m and relay sprint titles.

The velodrome rocked as Britain’s Jason Kenny and Laura Trott won double gold, while Victoria Pendleton won gold and silver before bidding a tearful farewell to the sport that has made her a star.

Sir Chris Hoy was there too, warmly embracing Sir Steven Redgrave after surpassing him as Britain’s greatest Olympian, his victories in the team sprint and the keirin taking his golden tally to six over four Games.

They were just a handful of a plethora of golden moments from one of the greatest Olympic Games of all time.

Like TeamGB, the BBC stepped up to the mark to provide its most extensive and ambitious Olympics coverage ever and duly delivered in terms of quality and presentation.

The corporation delivered a virtually faultless display in covering almost every minute of every sport.

With a little help from a certain Daily Mail columnist, Clare Balding became the broadcasting darling of the nation, rightly taking our gold medal for the most outstanding sports broadcaster of 2012.

Her famous interview with Bert Le Clos, father of swimming gold medallist Chad, was a particularly heart-warming highlight.

LONDON 2012 PARALYMPICS – CHANNEL 4

At the Paralympics the four gold medals of wheelchair athlete David Weir and the irrepressible charm of blade runner Jonnie Peacock as he won the 100m epitomised a Games with the emphasis on ability, not disability.

To quote one of Channel 4’s main presenters, the Olympics change the way you feel but the Paralympics changes the way you think.

From the record crowds creating amazing atmospheres to the volunteers who made sure everything went smoothly with a smile on their face, the Games were a huge success for disability sport and for Channel 4.

C4 had a pretty tough act to follow after the BBC’s peerless Olympics coverage and things didn’t quite go according to plan on the opening night, after viewers complained in droves on Twitter about the amount of commercial breaks that C4 were taking during the ceremony.

But they eventually proved the doubters and the critics wrong with its inspired coverage of an event that was being treated equally in television terms with the Olympics for the first time in its history.

If the competition was purely down to the pre-Games trailers, Channel 4’s Meet The Superhumans wins hands down, superbly reflecting Channel 4’s alternative approach to the biggest event in its broadcaster’s 30-year history.

A particular highlight of Channel 4’s coverage was the alternative review of each day’s events – The Last Leg – hosted by Australian comedian Adam Hills.

Playing on the channel’s reputation in bringing some fresh and quirky ideas to the table, The Last Leg brought something to the table that was missing during the Olympics, and the show’s success has been rewarded with a fresh run in the New Year.

TOUR DE FRANCE 2012 – ITV

Britain’s glorious summer of sport actually began in France some three weeks before the Olympic extravaganza burst into life.

Bradley Wiggins’ achievements in 2012 were truly stunning; an Olympic gold, victories in some of cycling’s most prestigious early-season events and that glorious and historic triumph in Paris in July.

Not only did Wiggo stride home to his maiden Tour but team-mate Chris Froome finished in second place, securing Britain’s first ever 1-2 in the race.

After persevering with an event that had been tainted by a string of doping scandals, ITV were there to capture the glorious moment for British cycling, with more than 4m watching the finale on the Champs Elysees.

Only Wiggins’ triumph, as ITV’s peerless presenter Gary Imlach commented, could have brought live cycling onto ITV1, but its sister station ITV4 has been the home of the Tour on terrestrial television in recent years, and thanks to the recent successes of Mark Cavendish and now Wiggins the channel will continue to reap the rewards of further expected British success in years to come.

RYDER CUP – SKY/BBC

In golf, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy polished his aura as the ‘new Tiger’ by winning his second major, the USPGA, at the age of 23, by a record eight shots.

If that was stunning then the events at Medinah Country Club, Illinois, in September were extraordinary.

Trailing by 10-6 going into the final day, Europe appeared to be playing for pride alone. McIlroy and the rest had other ideas and inspired by a day dedicated to the memory of the late Seve Ballesteros they produced a recovery in the swashbuckling tradition of their former captain.

Eight singles matches won, one halved, to deliver a 14.5-13.5 victory which deserves its place in the pantheon of great sporting comebacks.

The day’s events left Sky’s Butch Harmon and Colin Montgomerie almost lost for words.

US OPEN TENNIS – SKY

If you believed all the pundits there was never any doubt that Andy Murray would one day become a Grand Slam champion.

When that day would be was anyone’s guess, but after missing out on the Wimbledon title just a few weeks before, years of battling against the world’s best and the fighting for the affection of the British public, Murray finally delivered what everyone connected with British tennis had been waiting for.

Sky Sports were the lucky ones to capture the glorious moment in the early hours of a Tuesday morning under the dazzling lights at the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York.

Having won silver and gold at the Olympics following his loss to Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final, he then went on to rewrite 76 years of tennis history by becoming the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 to win a Grand Slam singles title, beating Novak Djokovic in five dramatic sets at the US Open.

In any other year Murray would be the undisputed king of British sport. In 2012 he was just another smiling face in the crowd.

Ever the professional, Murray joined the Sky team for a final word on his most career-defining triumph, even thanking them for their commitment to tennis, a plug that Sky took no time in plastering all over its trailers shortly after.

This year also saw the arrival of ITV onto the Grand Slam tennis scene, with the John Inverdale-led team delivering two highly entertaining weeks with the likes of Jim Courier and Fabrice Santoro both excellent choices as analysts, a welcome change from the established guard of ex-British number ones.

PREMIER LEAGUE FINALE – SKY

In a sporting year of tumultuous highs it perhaps unfair to relegate one of the greatest finales to a football season ever to the last of our of six main highlights of 2012.

2012 saw the crowning of Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City as the major force in English football, wrenching the Premier League title from neighbours Manchester United with a last-ditch winner from Sergio Aguero against QPR in the most dramatic season finale that we are ever likely to witness.

Martin Tyler’s commentary will forver be etched into the memories of all City fans, though as Martin Kelner noted in his excellent Screen Break column, it is perhaps ironic that Sky Sports, the broadcaster that never knowingly under sells anything, rather underplayed the potential for drama ahead of the final day of the Premier League season.

Pundits Graeme Souness and Gary Neville dismissed any notion of there being such a and 99 times out of 100 they probably would have been right.

Leaving fierce club allegiances aside that many fans cannot seem to leave to one side when talking about the former Manchester United captain, Neville has been the star pundit of 2012.

While his performances in the commentary box can be debated otherwise – the infamous ‘goalgasm’ and ‘written in the stars‘ moments spring to mind – there is no doubt that he brings an extra dimension to Sky’s efficient but formulaic football coverage.

As if to prove money makes football’s world spin like never before, Chelsea lifted the Champions League trophy for the first time, winning a penalty shoot-out 4-3 against Bayern Munich, with departing star Didier Drogba converting the decisive spot kick, a sentence that doesn’t quite do an thrilling final justice.

Euro 2012 was fun while it lasted with England failing once more to achieve at a major tournament, going out on penalties (how else?!), against Italy at Euro 2012 under new manager Roy Hodgson.

The battle of the broadcasters resumed in Poland and Ukraine as BBC and ITV went head-t0-head for viewers affections.

While ITV scored early on with the use of their atmospheric studio overlooking Castle Square in the centre of Warsaw, it was the BBC who ended taking all the spoils, beating their commercial rivals convincingly when the two faced each other in the final, a result no less predictable than the circumstances surrounding England’s eventual tournament demise.

Although the Adrian Chiles-led outfit took away a small consolation with the pundit of the tournament.

With the same old faces cropping up on the Beeb, ITV’s Roy Keane delivered a refreshingly brutal and honest assessment in his country’s exit from the tournament.

In truth, however, football was simply overwhelmed by sports and characters who so often in the past have been bit-part players in the shadow of the national sport’s all-consuming daily soap opera.

Significant Moments:

It was the year that also saw the last ever Grand National on the BBC after the corporation finally turned their back on the sport of kings for good, with Channel 4 winning the rights, and the services of Clare Balding, for 2013 and beyond.

In the end, the BBC’s racing coverage departed the scene with a wet wimper as their final scheduled meeting at Chepstow’s Welsh Grand National was postponed due to the terrible British weather, a sad way to end more than 60 years of sports broadcasting history.

For the first time in 2012, TV rights to Formula 1 were shared between two broadcasters, with pay-TV taking the lions share of the live action.

Sky dedicated a whole channel to the world’s most glamourous sport and for their first season they delivered a highly polished product.

On the other side that the majority of F1 fans were watching, Jake Humphrey said his farewell to the BBC and Formula 1 after four years during a dramatic season finale in Brazil.

Despite the loss of half the races and the protestations of all ‘three amigos’ lovers out there, the BBC’s output maintained an impressively high level.

Compared to other sports, Formula 1 fans have the luxury of choosing from two excellent broadcasters, one of which caters for the casual audience with its Top Gear-style approach to pre and post-race presentation, and the other for the more hard-core fan with its endless hours of live output and extra programming.

Fittingly, the year was brought to a close with bumper three-hour-long BBC Sports Personality of the Year in front of more than 15,000 people inside London’s ExCeL arena, with Bradley Wiggins lifting the famous trophy after winning the public vote.

Special Tributes:

Sid Waddell

Lord Oaksey

Brian Woolnough

Tony Greig

Finally…

Following this most sensational year of sport, I would just like to thank everyone who has messaged, re-tweeted and got in contact with SOTB over the past year.

We have exciting plans for the website to make it even better from 2013 onwards. We’ll be revealing more very shortly.

Many thanks for your continued support and Happy New Year!

Jon Day
Editor, SOTB

All footage copyright of the respective broadcasters

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