UK sports broadcaster David Coleman dies aged 87

LONDON (AP) — British sports broadcaster David Coleman, who covered 11 Summer Olympics for the BBC and six football World Cups, has died, his family said Saturday. He was 87.

Coleman retired from the BBC in 2000 after covering the Sydney Olympics. He became the first broadcaster to receive an Olympic Order medal to recognize his contribution to the Olympic movement. "We regret to announce the death of David Coleman OBE, after a short illness he died peacefully with his family at his bedside," Coleman's family said in a statement Saturday, which didn't provide the day of death.

BBC director of sport Barbara Slater described Coleman as a "giant" of broadcasting. "In a BBC career that spanned over 40 years he set the standard that so many others have tried to emulate," Slater said. "His was one of broadcasting's most authoritative and identifiable voices that graced so many pinnacle sporting moments."

British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: "Sad to hear David Coleman has died — the voice of BBC Sport for as long as I can remember." Coleman's breathless style of commentary invariably led to gaffes and he was frequently lampooned by satirical TV program "Spitting Image". Coleman also found himself the subject of a regular column in satirical magazine Private Eye, with its "Colemanballs" feature documenting commentators' gaffes to this day. Coleman was said to like the title and one of his own gaffes included, "That's the fastest time ever run, but it's not as fast as the world record."

The announcement of Coleman's death drew tributes from across the sporting world. Paula Radcliffe, the women's marathon world record holder, said: "RIP David Coleman. A true master in his field and voice to so many of our iconic sporting moments."

Former England footballer and BBC "Match of the Day" host Gary Lineker tweeted: "Sad to hear, David Coleman has died. A giant of sports broadcasting. Brilliant, gifted, precise and concise." Coleman was born in Cheshire, northern England, in April 1926. He was the son of Irish parents and for a time his sporting ambitions focused on participation as he pursued a career as a moderately successful middle-distance runner.

Coleman competed in the national cross-country championships in the 1950s before injury forced him to look elsewhere in terms of fulfilling a sporting career. Coleman moved into journalism, beginning his career as a reporter on the Stockport Express. He continued to report during his national service before earning his first BBC assignment as a freelance reporter in 1952.

In 1954 Coleman was appointed as a regional sports editor of the BBC in the Midlands, and he made his first appearance in front of the cameras on the corporation's "Sportsview" program. Coleman's rise started in earnest in 1958 when he was recruited by the BBC to front the new Saturday afternoon program "Grandstand".

Coleman's tenure as the program's anchor lasted for 10 years but his relationship with the BBC would endure for half a century, his blend of extraordinary knowledge and evident passion making him an instantly recognizable figure.

He also presented the BBC's Sports Review of the Year for 22 years from 1961, "Sportsnight With Coleman" between 1968 and 1972, "A Question of Sport" from 1979 to 1997 and a series of other major sporting events such as the Grand National.

Coleman was awarded the OBE for services to broadcasting in the 1992 New Year's Honors List.

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