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Kudos to the BBC for a Games to savour

No doubt the corporation is well used to abuse from certain sections of the print media and licence-fee loathers in general, but when the The Herald letters page carries BBC-dissing from mild-mannered lawn bowl aficionados, it is surely time to leap to Auntie's defence.

When the bouquets are handed out after tomorrow's Closing Ceremony, it's a fair bet that the contribution of the broadcasting organisation to the success of the 20th Commonwealth Games will at best be taken for granted. But it has been immense and, to my eyes, among the most coherent and admirably diverse operations the BBC has ever mounted.

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The Commonwealth Games are not the Olympics and Glasgow may not be London, but the Beeb has really done the city and the event proud. The sporting coverage has been comprehensive and exemplary, as we have come to expect, but the BBC's real investment in Glasgow's big year lies far beyond that. The expansion of the facilities on Pacific Quay, with temporary studios and tented venues, gave Glasgow's waterfront a showcase it has never had before. The stream of programming from there, with hours of live music, has kept the airwaves filled with the city's name.

Bridging that gap each evening has been Tonight At The Games, an hour-long magazine show which very quickly found its shape as a fast-paced showcase for the personalities of the Games. The programme was an exemplar of a debased TV format, full of praiseworthy ingredients, from the inclusion of an excellent local band, The Federation (Of The Disco Pimp), to the simple notion of having a reporter track down competitors from every nation involved and mark them on a map as a way of educating us all about the Commonwealth's reach.

Presented by Radio 5 Live's Mark Chapman and ubiquitous BBC face Clare Balding, the latter in particular was a revelation. It was she who seemed to appreciate quickly what was wrong with the cosy sofa tone of the first shows and picked up the pace to match the funky urgency of the house band. By midway through the week, TATG had become a must-see zip through everything that had happened during the day at Glasgow's Games, bringing the people as well as the performances and the tallies into our living rooms.

I'll mention one other programme I felt priveleged to catch. Tuesday's edition of Woman's Hour came from Pacific Quay and was hugely enhanced by the live audience, with whom presenter Jane Garvey had clearly already built a skilful rapport. That happy atmosphere clad a carefully-themed show about women in sport that encompased the most intelligent discussion of fitness and body image and the pressures on girls that I expect ever to hear, contributors including an athlete who had come through an eating disorder, and playwright Aisha Zia and boxer Ambreen Sadiq, whose collaboration, No Guts, No Heart, No Glory, will be staged in Craigmillar during the Edinburgh Fringe.

Strangely, the BBC's annual presence in Edinburgh never seems more than a side-show, while this Glasgow effort felt right at the heart of the event.

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