The great British public will vote for their favourites

It’s a pre-Christmas ‘thing.’ Even Covid couldn’t derail ’em. It’s the final of Strictly tonight, and the Sports Personality of the Year award show tomorrow. The man, woman, and small person in the street will have their say.

Marvellous ….

Firstly, to the destination of the Glitterball trophy. Four celebs and their pro partners remain. They are – cue Tess

Clip courtesy of BBC Strictly Twitter

There’s been lots of fun punting on the outcome since before any fake tan was applied, even. As we wait for tonight’s thrilling outcome, here’s how Betfred sees the final four, and those outright prices for glory;

Bill Bailey 4/5; HRVY 7/4; Maisie Smith 13/2; Jamie Laing 66/1

Bill has been a crowd favourite from the off. HRVY and Maisie bring the youthful vigour and, often, brilliance. Jamie has proved himself to be a born survivor, though one or two can surely count themselves unlucky not to have made it in his stead (see file marked Ranvir Singh).

Here’s exactly what we can expect to see tonight, BBC1, from 6pm. In this weirdest and most difficult of years, Strictly has provided an occasional, very welcome, light-hearted distraction.

Clip courtesy BBC Twitter

Sunday night sees another hardy annual – this time one that’s been with us since 1954. For that very first Sports Personality of the Year award, Chris Chataway beat fellow athlete Roger Bannister.

Chris had been a pacemaker when Bannister, in May of that very year, recorded the first-ever sub four-minute mile – an achievement that made the front pages of newspapers from here to Timbuktu.

Early evidence, as if any were needed, that the public vote can be massively unpredictable.

This time around we have a shortlist of six nominees. They are, with their latest Betfred odds;

Lewis Hamilton 4/9; Hollie Doyle 9/4; Ronnie O’Sullivan 10/1; Jordan Henderson 25/1; Tyson Fury 28/1; Stuart Broad 150/1

As always, odds can fluctuate between now and ‘the off’ for most events – so kindly visit Betfred.com for all the very latest.

Hamilton has recently added to an already stellar career by setting a record for GP wins, and tying Michael Schumacher’s tally of seven world titles. He would, of course, be a very appropriate winner.

Jockey Hollie Doyle was any price when the nominations were announced, but a concerted campaign sees her hotly-fancied at around 9/4 – and that could feasibly shorten even more.

She is, quite simply, outstanding; and the public could back her all the way.

It’s a show I love to watch. There’s a nobility to elite sporting achievement, and the BBC showcase it beautifully. A sense that it all transcends the ‘mere’ game-playing, and represents lives well-lived in the quest for breathing that rarefied air enjoyed by so few.

There will doubtless be special mentions for Marcus Rashford, and his wonderful interventions on behalf of those less fortunate children who cannot even rely on the prospect of regular nutritious meals; and Kevin Sinfield, an absolute giant of a man who has raised an incredible amount of money for Motor Neurone Disease research, principally in honour of his former Leeds Rhinos’ teammate and pal Rob Burrow, who suffers acutely from it.

Sinfield ran 7 marathons in 7 days, generating over £2 million. Rashford has had politicians U-turning and scurrying around chasing their tails – while kids are getting a better chance at life. Struggles he remembers only too well from his own childhood.

While great men like these exist, and I don’t use the term lightly, we’re tuning in not just to worship and pay homage to our sporting stars, but to celebrate humanity, generosity of sprit, vision, and selflessness. Wonderful qualities we’ve needed more than ever in this most dreadful of years.

There will be a roll-call of heroes from yesteryear whose race came to an end in 2020. We’ll see images of among others Nobby Stiles, Peter Alliss, Jack Charlton, and from farther afield Diego Maradona and Kobe Bryant. I’ll shed a tear or three, and thank them all warmly for the unforgettable memories.

A big weekend then. The Beeb pushing the boat out for two big winter favourites – genuine family viewing, with Christmas, a very odd-looking Christmas at that, on our doorstep.

I’m looking forward to both shows immensely, and hope that you are, too. Take care, be safe – and enjoy.

Alan Firkins 

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