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Last Updated: Friday, 10 October 2003, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
45 and still going strong
There has been sport on a Saturday afternoon for as long as most people can remember - but when was the first time you could regularly watch it on television?

Forty-five years ago, the BBC embarked on a journey that was to change the face of Saturday afternoon television - and the way we view sport - forever.

John Tidy with the 1985/85 football scoreboard
Graphics producer John Tidy has worked on Grandstand since 1958

When it was launched on Saturday 11 October 1958 Grandstand was the first all-encompassing sports show to be broadcast on BBC television.

The first show, presented by Peter Dimmock, came from the now-defunct Lime Grove studios and featured racing from Ascot, golf and the Horse of the year show.

In addition, there was an up-to-the-minute sports results service with all the latest news from football grounds around the country.

One man who remembers Grandstand's early days well is John Tidy, who joined the graphics team in 1958 at the age of 18.

Football and racing results were displayed on an 8ft high board, and required John to post the latest scores while hanging precariously onto a huge ladder.

Dangerous work, especially when live on television and under-pressure, but John claims the system ran like clockwork.

Coleman was the biggest taskmaster of all the presenters
John Tidy

"The first few weeks ran smoothly," he says, "And any hiccups we had then we still get every weekend.

"The big boards were quite good fun to work with, and rather like in Blue Peter, everything was made out of cardboard and sellotape.

"Of course there were difficult days when 40-50 football matches were postponed and we had to quickly change the sign next to each match, but generally the system worked well."

Electronic scores were introduced in 1982, and computers arrived in the studio in 1988, but in the years before these technological advances a team of animators and artists dealt with the graphics.

The teleprinter and videprinter, still used in today's show - albeit a computerised version - were both at the cutting edge of TV production when they were introduced to the show.

Grandstand was also the first sports channel in Britain to broadcast in colour, and beamed colour pictures from the 1968 Mexico Olympics to a captivated audience.

And of course there are the presenters, a long list of illustrious names who fronted the show with their own particular styles.

Des Lynam, Frank Bough, Helen Rollason and today's anchor Steve Rider are all worthy of mentions, but Tidy's favourite was David Coleman.

"Coleman was the biggest taskmaster of the lot of them," he says, "He would always be trying to test your sporting knowledge before we went on air.

"But they all had their own little quirks - and of all of them Des was the most humorous.

"He always wanted to try something different, and of course it was his idea to stage the fight."


How could we forget about the fight?

The April Fool prompted a flurry of phonecalls from viewers shocked that BBC staff had decided to have a scrap behind Des.

It was all a joke, even if some of the moves (and bruises) looked quite realistic.

No doubt technology will continue to race on in the coming years, and the competition will become fiercer, but the show's core values remain the same as when it started 45 years ago.

"Grandstand isn't a show that rests on its laurels," Tidy says, "You always have an eye on next week's programme.

"As a sports service you have to be accurate, reliable and quick - and that is never going to change."


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