Familiar faces feature in C4’s world athletics line-up

Anyone who thought that the BBC had lost the rights to broadcast the athletics world championships might do a double-take when they switch on for the first session from Daegu, South Korea, in August.

Ortis Deley: C4's athletics front man

For there will be Michael Johnson, a regular and popular figure from the BBC’s athletics coverage over the past seven years or so.

There behind the lip mike will be John Rawling, who until 2005 was BBC radio’s athletics and boxing commentator.

Alongside him will be is Rob Walker, the energetic all-round presenter who impressed with his wet-suited coverage of Olympic sailing in Beijing in 2008 for the Beeb.

And there, trackside, will be Sonja McLaughlin, another familiar face from BBC Sport, and Katharine Merry, yet another member of BBC radio’s athletics coverage team.

In a line-up heavy with ex-athletes will also be Iwan Thomas and Dean Macey.

Fronting Channel 4’s presentation of 65 hours of live coverage from August 27 to September 4, though, will be someone with no sports presenting experience, Ortis Deley, who has previously worked on the Gadget Show.

With C4 having the host broadcaster rights for the 2012 Paralympics, the channel will have a lot at stake in its return to track and field coverage. In 1997-1998, the channel took on the rights to broadcast Britain’s domestic athletics programme, to – at best – mixed reviews, and it dropped the contract early after acquiring rights to live Test cricket.

For the channel that pioneered coverage of NFL, NBA and the Tour de France in the United Kingdom when it was launched nearly 30 years ago, C4’s sports portfolio has been allowed to decline in recent times. C4 Racing is the sole remaining regular live sports fixture on the channel.

According to today’s C4 press release, Michael Johnson’s ” appointment as a champion pundit reflects Channel 4’s commitment to delivering fresh and high-quality coverage of the IAAF championships”.

Jamie Aitchison, Editor, Live Sports, Channel 4, said: “Michael is renowned for his frank, incisive and illuminating views and we are delighted to have him as our lead analyst in our exciting team.”

Channel 4 has appointed Middlesbrough-based website supplier 13Strides to create its bespoke online content for the championships. The company itself was founded by a former athlete, Anthony Bursomato.

Daegu will be the first athletics world championships since the inaugural event in 1983 that will not be televised by the BBC.

TV coverage of the championships will also be available live and uninterrupted in the UK through Eurosport, and its commentary team of Tim Hutchings and Martin Gillingham.

Hutchings has been heard providing commentary on this summer’s Diamond League meetings for the BBC, which has been running its coverage on the digital Red Button service and taking host broadcaster feeds including commentary with veteran former BBC commentator Stuart Storey.


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