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Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2006, 14:21 GMT
New era for Sports Personality
By Saj Chowdhury
BBC Sport in Birmingham

Third-placed Beth Tweddle and runner-up Darren Clarke flank winner Zara Phillips
Third-placed Beth Tweddle and runner-up Darren Clarke flank winner Zara Phillips
For the first time in its 53-year history, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show opened its doors to the general public.

All 3,000 tickets for the show sold out in 50 minutes on the day they went on sale, testament to the popularity of the long-established programme.

And the lucky ticket holders came to the NEC in Birmingham in their best party clobber, despite it being a bitterly cold and stormy December night.

The expectations were high as the crowd milled around outside the main arena.

Questions like "Who will win?", "Will there be any surprises?", "Is that sexy Boris (Becker) here?" could be heard mixed with sounds of the final rehearsals on the main stage.

Jenny Moore was one such person who could not contain her excitement, having travelled from nearby Stoke.

Jenny Moore (right) with friend at Sports Personality of the Year awards
Jenny Moore (right) jumped at the chance to attend show
"The moment we knew the tickets were available, we went for them," said Jenny, who was at the NEC with two of her friends.

"I work in sports development, encouraging young kids to get into sport, so I couldn't miss the chance to come to an event like this.

And who had she come to see? "Jonny Wilkinson, David Beckham, basically all the pretty ones," she said with doe-eyed hope, which turned into slight disappointment as she learned Becks was absent.

The show itself appeared to run without a hitch.

Beth Tweddle remained Britain's best hope of gymnastics gold in 2008, by avoiding injury during her uneven bars routine.

Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill stayed calm despite some light-hearted goading from Gary Lineker and David Walliams kept his jokes clean for the family audience.

The public deserve to see their heroes honoured
Asif Bashir
When it came to the 'big' award, it was fair to say winner Zara Phillips was not the only surprised face.

"I was extremely shocked, as I'm sure were many members of the audience, when the Ryder Cup team lost out to St Helens and even more taken aback when Darren Clarke missed out on the main award," said Asif Bashir, from Birmingham.

"Apart from that I thought it was a fantastic evening and proud that the event was hosted in my home city.

"It's just a surprise that its taken 53 years for the BBC to realise that it's the public that creates and idolises these personalities and that they are ones who deserve the chance to get to see their heroes honoured. Long may this new format continue."

And with that, Asif and other audience members, left the arena as a unique night in the history of BBC Sports Personality drew to a close.

Phillips wins top BBC Sport award
10 Dec 06 |  Sport Homepage
Sports Personality: The winners
10 Dec 06 |  Sport Homepage
Sports Personality photos
10 Dec 06 |  Sports Personality
Zara Phillips - A worthy winner?
11 Dec 06 |  Sports Personality


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