Peter Dimmock: Former BBC broadcaster dies aged 94

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Original Grandstand presenter Peter Dimmock remembered

Peter Dimmock - the first presenter of Grandstand, Sportsview and the Sports Personality of the Year awards - has died aged 94.

Dimmock joined the BBC as head of outside broadcasts in 1946, and was responsible for bringing the Queen's coronation to the nation's screens.

A former Royal Air Force flight lieutenant, he worked for the Press Association before 31 years at the BBC.

BBC director general Tony Hall described Dimmock as a "true pioneer".

He added: "As the man who oversaw coverage of the Queen's coronation, he was also responsible for a seminal moment in British broadcasting history.

"Peter's broadcasting mirrored the man - charming, warm, and authoritative."

Former BBC One controller Sir Paul Fox said Dimmock had "introduced the British public to television" and "led BBC Sport to some of its greatest successes".

Grandstand presenters Steve Rider, David Coleman, Peter Dimmock, Desmond Lynam and Frank Bough
Peter Dimmock (centre) at Grandstand's 40th anniversary celebration at Ascot in October 1998 with the presenters who followed him: Steve Rider, David Coleman, Desmond Lynam and Frank Bough

He said: "He persuaded the people who mattered that the coronation of the Queen should be televised, thereby ensuring the arrival of television in this country.

"More than 20 million watched the coronation, the majority outside their homes. Within 12 months, television licences had doubled."

BBC director of sport Barbara Slater said Dimmock had made an "extraordinary contribution" to the broadcasting industry.

"He was hugely admired by both the audience and those that worked with him. He will be sadly missed."

Filming the Queen's coronation

Peter Dimmock shaking hands with the Queen
Shaking hands with the Queen at the opening of New Broadcasting House in June 2013, 60 years after he oversaw the televising of her coronation

The Queen's coronation at Westminster Abbey on 2 June, 1953 was the largest outside broadcast the BBC had ever undertaken.

It was also the first time a television audience for an event of national importance had exceeded the number of people listening on radio.

Dimmock produced the coverage but later revealed that he had also needed to use his powers of persuasion to be allowed to film the ceremony.

In an interview with the BBC detailing the corporation's history, Dimmock recalled: "[Prime Minister] Winston Churchill was against it, several of his government were against it and I don't think the Queen was even asked at that stage.

"We performed every trick in the book because people wanted to see and deserved to see the coronation.

"Eventually we persuaded Bernard Norfolk, who organised the coronation, the Queen's press secretary Richard Colville and the Archbishop of Canterbury to let us have a trial of the camera.

"But there was a rule that no camera could be closer than 30 feet from the Queen.

"I got a girl to walk down the aisle as though she was the Queen, but used a two-inch lens - the widest there was - and she looked a mile away. They were happy with that, but what they didn't know was that I was going to use a 12-inch lens that would give the best close up of the Queen that there had ever been."

Fast start for Sportsview

Peter Dimmock with Mirabel Topham
Peter Dimmock shows Mirabel Topham, then owner of Aintree racecourse, his plans for the first televised Grand National in 1960

In 1954, Dimmock moved from his role as a director and went in front of the camera to present a new sports programme called Sportsview, which became Sportsnight in 1968.

With his distinctive moustache, Dimmock became a familiar face in millions of households.

And, as Dimmock explained, the new venture could not have had a better start.

He added: "Luck was on our side because on the night of the first edition Roger Bannister was attempting the first sub-four-minute mile in Oxford.

"When he did it, we hired a racing driver to get him back to the studio before the end of the programme. Roger said it was the most horrific car journey he had ever experienced, but we got him there and I interviewed him. That kicked it off to a good start."

Match of the Day commentator John Motson
"If one person got BBC Sport where it went in the early days it was Peter Dimmock.
"The first programme I ever saw as a 10-year-old schoolboy was Sportsview and I can still see him in his swivel chair and distinguished moustache.
"I met him once personally - the first day I joined Match of the Day in 1971, but he looked as I remembered him - the presence, the moustache, a man who was the leader of the episode when sport became real on television in the 1950s.
"If it was not for Dimmock and other people of that era I would not have the privilege of doing what I do. We have to be grateful for the pioneers and number one was Peter Dimmock."

Launching Grandstand

Dimmock was the first presenter of the Sports Personality of the Year award in 1954, which until 1999 was known as Sports Review of the Year.

He also fronted the first coverage of the Grand National in 1960 after persuading Aintree racecourse owner Mirabel Topham to allow the race to be televised after many years of trying.

Two years earlier he had teamed up with producer Paul Fox to launch Grandstand, hosting the first two editions before being replaced by David Coleman.

1961 Sports Personality of the Year award
Watching on as Fifa president Sir Stanley Rous presents Sir Stirling Moss with the Sports Personality of the Year award in 1961

Dimmock said: "Paul had this good idea to link live outside broadcasts from a studio so we could give half-time football results, racing results and various items from throughout the afternoon.

"And then, of course, the most important thing of all, the full-time results on the teleprinter with everyone sitting at home with their coupons seeing the results as they came up.

"I think one of the reasons why Paul asked me to introduce it was because if it went wrong then 'Dimmock will carry the can'.

"But the only real thing that happened was when I said, 'now we leave Ascot to go to the World Amateur Golf Championships at St Andrews and up came Harringay show jumping'.

"But we got over that and it was obvious when we got it off the ground and David joined us that it was going to be around for a long time."

Peter Dimmock (centre)
Peter Dimmock was one of the pioneering giants of BBC broadcasting
BBC team for the 1968 Mexico Olympics
With the BBC team that covered the 1968 Mexico Olympics, including David Coleman, Bryan Cowgill, Dorian Williams, Peter West, Max Robertson, Norris McWhirter, Harry Carpenter, Frank Bough, David Saunders, Kenneth Wolstenholme, Alan Weeks, Ron Pickering and Harry Walker
Princess Alexandra, Peter Dimmock and Ann Jones
With Princess Alexandra and 1969 Sports Personality of the Year Ann Jones, who won the Wimbledon ladies' singles title that year
With Prince Philip
Helping Prince Philip make his debut as a television presenter in 1957. The Duke of Edinburgh fronted The Restless Sphere: The Story of the International Geophysical Year
Successfully negotiating in the BBC's New York office for the rights to televise Muhammad Ali's 1967 world heavyweight title fight against Ernie Terrell
Successfully negotiating in the BBC's New York office for the rights to televise Muhammad Ali's 1967 world heavyweight title fight against Ernie Terrell
Peter Dimmock
Peter Dimmock presented Sportsview from 1954-64, later becoming head of outside broadcasts before leaving the BBC in 1977

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