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How do we even draw up a shortlist?

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: September 08, 2012

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As a nation, we tend to feel quite at ease criticising the pick-up-the-phone-and-vote-for-your-favourite culture of programmes such as The X Factor. Yet we continue to place an incredible amount of prestige and significance onto the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year award.

The format is dated, but we continue to swear by it – and mainly because it is simply a bit of fun and a chance to see some highlights from the sporting year in one convenient, pre-Christmas package.

However, as with everything related to sport, there is also a competitive side. As with the Olympics, there must be a winner, a runner-up and someone finishing third.

Despite Sky Sports' takeover of our televisions, the Beeb's quaint old award is still seen as the definitive barometer of the year in British sport. Sometimes there is one standout candidate; sometimes – such as in 2009 when Ryan Giggs won what was essentially a glorified lifetime achievement award – fewer than that.

But this is one of those glorious years where the subject of who will win the award is already a hot topic – particularly if you are a bookmaker – and, for the unusually positive reason, that there is simply too much choice.

There must be some years where the show's producers dread putting together the final programme and are left scraping the ground where the barrel used to be when it comes to making a shortlist of ten nominees.

This year, in no particular order and off the top of my head, I can think of: Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy, Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, Ellie Simmonds, Andy Murray, David Weir (the Paralympian, of course, not the ex-Evertonian), Laura Trott, Jonnie Peacock and Katherine Grainger.

Oh, and hang on, I want to include Sarah Storey, Gemma Gibbons, Nicola Adams, Jason Kenny, Alistair Brownlee, Tom Daley and Victoria Pendleton. And Greg Rutherford, Hannah Cockroft, Helen Glover, Heather Stanning and Ben Ainslie. Plus a fair few others – and those are just the Olympians and Paralympians.

Poor old Rory McIlroy, who has this year added the US PGA title to last year's US Open – he might just squeeze into the final programme. And such has been the quality of sport this year that even England's Lion™, John Terry, is struggling to make the shortlist and will need a big performance against Ukraine on Tuesday to cement his place at the expense of Hoy, Wiggins or some other one-year wonder.

But, lowest form of wit aside, this has been the greatest of sporting summers in the greatest of sporting years for this country. The weather, when it had to, behaved; the Olympic and Paralympic Games have been organisational masterpieces; the atmospheres have been joyous, the welcome for international athletes and visitors warm.

On top of all of this, the British athletes performed when it mattered, and – as if we ever doubted it – the pre-Olympic scepticism, pessimism and cynicism quickly turned to hopefulness, enchantment and exhilaration. We were well and truly drawn in and then overwhelmed by sport's magical powers.

At the end of this wonderfully crazy sporting year, the Sports Personality of the Year programme and award, in one way, will provide a microcosm of why this summer's Games have been such a success on so many levels: it is that peculiarly British trait of being able to look forward, and to deliver in the present, while simultaneously doffing a cap to our past.

On a night in December, we will fondly remember the summer we have just lived through, and the evening will, no doubt, be much like the Olympic and Paralympic Games in that one person will win the ultimate prize, yet all of us will be winners.

Many bookmakers make Ellie Simmonds and David Weir the fifth and sixth favourites, respectively, to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award for 2012. Those same bookmakers make Sir Chris Hoy seventh favourite.

And, if the Paralympics have done one thing, they have made us see people and their achievements in a different light.

Our eyes and brains took some time to adjust, of course they did, but, by the time the Olympic Stadium held its own version of 'Super Saturday' on Thursday evening, were we, the watching public, seeing anything other than top-class athletes performing heroics?

There are some stock phrases around Paralympics, which have, at times, sounded like clichés because of nothing else but their ubiquity: that we should look beyond the disability and see instead the ability; that these Games will change both attitudes and perceptions.

But it is all true – the outpouring of superlatives is rivalling that from the Olympic Games, and for the simple reason that brilliant sportsmen and women are doing brilliant things in the pool, on the track and elsewhere.

We like to talk about legacies – and one is unfolding right in front of us. Try to remember – honestly – how many past and present Paralympic athletes you could have named before the turn of the year? Tanni Grey-Thompson? Oscar Pistorius? Maybe Simmonds, after her feats in Beijing when she was 13? Perhaps Weir or Sarah Storey? Now how many can you name?

Barriers have been broken down in how we perceive disabled sportsmen and women. The next step, surely, is extending that open-mindedness, interest and respect to the general disabled population in our country.

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  • Welshtyke  |  September 09 2012, 6:39PM

    I have just emailed the BBC to suggest an open with NO short list. Ther just too many good sports people to have it short listed. It is has got to be purely a public vote.