C4 lands a coup in signing up Balding for racing

The London Olympics were won by Girl Power, among the medallists and the broadcasters, says NORMAN GILLER

Des Lynam, the consummate broadcaster, rarely put a foot wrong when behind the microphone or in front of the camera. But now he is finding what we sports scribes know too well, that the written word can be twisted to misrepresent you.

He brought the wrath of the world on his wise old head by writing in his Daily Telegraph Olympic television column : “I have come to the conclusion that, while female presenters have done a fine job, the female voice is not so attractive for actual commentating and in some cases becomes grating.”

Clare Balding: soon to be the face of Channel 4’s coverage of the Paralympics, and of racing

In my opinion, the key phrase there is “and in some cases becomes grating”.

But the army of critics who have given Des the first good kicking of his exceptional media career took it that he had dismissed all female commentators. Not true.

Des is old enough and ugly enough to put up his own defence, but anybody who is fair minded – whether or not of the fair sex – can see that he was clearly not being generic.

Some of the criticism was spiteful, and “Dishy Des” – for so long the nation’s favourite – was variously described as a “dinosaur”, “has-been”, “bitter old man,” “relic” and, below the belt, “boring old fart”.

Des and I were together recently at the microphone in a BBC studio discussing our mutual old friend Henry Cooper, and one of the backroom technicians told me out of his hearing: “Des is the king of one-take recordings, the ultimate professional.”

We agreed that the women presenters had stolen the Olympic show from their male counterparts.

The day after the Games I was sitting relaxed in a restaurant alongside the River Test in Hampshire when suddenly I thought I was hallucinating. A face that had rarely been off my screen during the Games was suddenly in my eyeline. Quickly I realised it really was Clare Balding.

On a rare day off, Clare was taking her dog for a walk and I was able to tell her to her face that in my opinion she’d had an outstanding Games. Along with Hazel Irvine, Gabby Logan, Sue Barker and Mishal Husain, they were as outstanding as the British women who made them a truly Girl Power Olympics.

The next day Clare was named as having been hired to front Channel 4 Racing. Like me, Des rates her one of the best of the current broadcasters and will not have found that news grating. A great coup for C4.

LONG AFTER I HAVE departed this mortal coil, sports writers – all British sports lovers – will recall London 2012 as the best of times, the golden age. Hats off to the man chiefly responsible: Sebastian Coe.

How to reward Seb for his vision, passion, leadership and energy? He is already a Lord, so it needs to be something tangible.

What about a statue in the Olympic Park, to be unveiled by the one man challenging his status as Britain’s greatest ever track athlete, Mo-Mo Farah.

Now for the Paralympics. And we are in the best possible hands for what I am convinced will be a sports festival that will grab the nation’s interest as much as the Olympics.

Leading the C4 team – Clare Balding! Now if they could pair her with Des Lynam, that would be just perfect.


Mon Sep 24: SJA Autumn Golf Day, Muswell Hill GC. Booking details from Paul Trow at

Thu Dec 6: 2012 SJA British Sports Awards. An Olympic year extravaganza. Note the date in your diary now. Details to be announced soon.