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Pompous circumstance . . . It's all relative as Auntie dishes out early gifts

Danny Boyle's masterly orchestration of the Olympic opening ceremony was always going to be a tough act to follow, but one might have imagined the BBC would rise to the challenge during their annual Sports Personality of the Year programme.

Sue Barker and Bradley Wiggins review the cyclist's stellar year before he eventually walks off with the evening's ultimate accolade. Picture: PA
Sue Barker and Bradley Wiggins review the cyclist's stellar year before he eventually walks off with the evening's ultimate accolade. Picture: PA

Yet, sadly, but predictably, the corporation, whose coverage of the Games was as excellent as their treatment of the Jubilee festivities was execrable, served up a bloated dragathon of an event, unsure whether it was paying homage to sporting heroes or reaching out to an audience, whose normal viewing schedule includes reality TV shows and The Last Night of the Proms.

That explained the awkward interplay between the likes of Gary Lineker and Sue Barker, the stilted conversations with too many celebrities, who were obviously better with a one-iron than a one-liner, and recourse to prolonged and sycophantic tributes to Lord Coe, when the majority of people tuning in were simply expecting the opportunity to relive the highlights of what has been a phenomenal year for British sport.

To his credit, the winner, Wiggins, is a genuine personality and his evisceration of Lineker's spray tan was hilarious. But if he offered some snappy pizzazz, the rest of the proceedings went on and on and on, to the stage where one was shouting at the screen: "Show us some bloody sport!"

After all, how could anybody fail with such lustrous material and lavish twists? In 2012, Britain produced its first-ever Tour de France champion, in Wiggins, the first male to win a Grand Slam tennis title for 76 years, in Andy Murray, and the first athlete to surge to Olympic gold in both the 500m and 10,000m, in the guise of Mo Farah. And that is before we even mention the astonishing recovery by Europe's golfers on the final day of the most engrossing Ryder Cup competition in the event's closely-fought history.

When you added to the mix the coruscating performances of such disparate characters as Jessica Ennis, all grace under pressure and uncanny combination of ambassador and athletic excellence, Katherine Grainger, who seemed destined to be the "nearly woman" of British rowing until she struck gold at her fourth attempt, and Ellie Simmonds, the beguiling, relentlessly committed Paralympian luminary, this was a cast list of stellar quality among both genders. Indeed, it was a measure of how much terrific material the BBC had at their disposal that some of 2012's most captivating stories – such as the truth about Hillsborough and the fall of Lance Armstrong – were glossed over in a few seconds. But that was also one of the problems of this SPOTY production; the constant reminder that the BBC may have enjoyed a feast this year, but they had better remember that, come 2013, there will be no Olympics, no Ryder Cup or high-profile international football tournaments. Instead, there will be a plethora of action on rival terrestrial channels and satellite broadcasters.

If anything, the dozen-strong list of candidates for the Beeb's honour was too blessed with talent for any repeat performance to be arranged. Sir Chris Hoy this year became the UK's most successful Olympian; how do you follow that? Murray, meanwhile, could well collect a string of other majors, and can anticipate finishing better than third and having to award himself his own prize as happened last night. But nothing will carry quite the same resonance as the fashion in which he finally allowed Fred Perry to rest in peace.

Similar reservations apply to Wiggins, whose eventual victory last evening was not a surprise, given the strength of the cycling lobby in this country. There will be many Scots inclined to believe that Murray had to win in Flushing Meadows entirely through his own labours – against some of the greatest players in the history of tennis – and was therefore more deserving of the main prize than Wiggins, who was helped by a potent ensemble of top-notch support staff, who were willing to play second fiddle during his Tour charge. But the truth was that seven or eight names on the list of nominees would have been a worthy recipient of the honour.

The trouble is: what do you do for an encore in 2013? Especially when the Ashes and the British and Irish Lions are being shown live on Sky, the Tour de France is being screened elsewhere, and the best football action from England, Spain and the rest of Europe comes via satellite, as does the Heineken Cup and all the year's Grand Slam golf (apart from the Open). In terms of what the BBC has clung on to, it is true that Murray might win Wimbledon or Rory McIlroy could prevail at Muirfield next summer, but there was an end-of-Empire feel to the SPOTY proceedings, as if even they realised that Scotland could be an independent country by the time of the next Olympics, which will have ramifications which most officials have not even started to contemplate.

Ultimately, it was an annus mirabilis for British sport, so Auntie was entitled to rejoice. And credit to Wiggo, who boldly went where none of his compatriots had gone before. But wasn't it ironic that a Team Sky rider should walk off with the silverware?

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