Coleman hailed as 'icon'

Burnley and Pendle Citizen: David Coleman has died at the age of 87 David Coleman has died at the age of 87

David Coleman, the much-loved broadcaster whose distinctive voice was synonymous with so many of the iconic sporting moments of the second half of the 20th century, has died at the age of 87.

Olympic champions and former colleagues at the BBC paid glowing tributes to the commentator and presenter, who was hailed as "the greatest sports broadcaster", "an icon" and "a master".

The renowned athletics commentator worked for the BBC for 46 years, covering 11 summer Olympic Games, his final one in Sydney in 2000.

He also covered six football World Cups.

His family said in a statement that Coleman died peacefully after a short illness with his family at his bedside.

Primer Minister David Cameron said on Twitter: "Sad to hear David Coleman has died - the voice of @BBCSport for as long as I can remember."

Brendan Foster, the former Olympic 10,000 metres bronze medallist, added on the BBC Sport website: "David Coleman was the greatest sports broadcaster that ever lived.

"He was a giant of sports broadcasting. It was a privilege to know him and it was a privilege to have him commentating on races during my career."

Coleman, who was born in Cheshire and joined the BBC in 1954, presented Grandstand and also hosted A Question Of Sport from 1979 to 1997.

Bill Beaumont, the former England rugby union captain, was a team captain on the prime-time quiz show for 14 years.

Beaumont, now chairman of the Rugby Football Union, said: "It's a very sad day and this is very sad news. David was the doyen of sports broadcasters. He had a magnificent voice, loved sport and had an incredible depth of knowledge. He set the standards for others to follow.

"I spent 14 years working with him on Question Of Sport and knew him before then through Grandstand. We spent lots of time together over the years and he was a lovely man as well as a great family man."

Coleman also became affectionately known for on-air gaffes, giving his name to Private Eye magazine's Colemanballs column of commentators' mistakes.

He was awarded an OBE in 1992 and retired from the BBC in 2000.

Later that year he became the first broadcaster to receive an Olympic Order medal to recognise his contribution to the Olympic movement.

Jonathan Edwards, the 2000 Olympic triple jump champion, said on the BBC Sport website: "David knew sport inside out, particularly athletics. He knew when to speak but, just as importantly, knew when not to speak and just let the pictures talk to the audience.

"David was one of that rare breed who had the ability to say just a word and you knew who he was, like Sean Connery in acting and Bill McLaren in rugby."

Steve Cram, on whose tussles for world middle-distance supremacy with fellow Britons Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett Coleman commentated, added: "We will never see anyone like him again in broadcasting. Broadcasting, like athletics, is about performance and he wanted to produce the best he could."

Linford Christie, the 1992 Olympic 100m champion, said on Twitter: "David was a no-nonsense, straight-talking true gentleman and an iconic voice of sport, but at the heart of it all was a massive sports fan and supporter of good performances.

"I am very proud that we shared some amazing times in and out of the stadium."

Colin Jackson, the former 110m hurdles world record-holder, wrote: "An icon has left us.. I was lucky to have his voice on world record race in 1993! David Coleman...superstar!! RIP sir... Huge respect!"

Denise Lewis, the 2000 Olympic heptathlon champion, added: "All my childhood memories of athletics brought to life & made so vivid by one man, one voice. RIP David Coleman."

Paula Radcliffe, the women's marathon world record-holder, called Coleman a "true master in his field".

Gary Lineker, the Match of the Day host and former England striker, described him as "brilliant, gifted, precise and concise".

Coleman, whose first Olympics was in Rome in 1960, began presenting Grandstand in 1958 and worked on the magazine programme for 10 years.

In 1971 he became the BBC's senior football commentator, covering five FA Cup finals before handing over to John Motson in 1979.

Motson said: "He was a very friendly man - beneath the demanding side of him, he was a terrific human being."

BBC director-general Tony Hall called Coleman "one of this country's greatest and most respected broadcasters", while the corporation's director of sport Barbara Slater described him as "a giant in the sports broadcasting world, an iconic and hugely respected figure".

Coleman is survived by his wife Barbara and their six children.

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