The BBC moved quickly today to dismiss a report in The Sun that gave the impression that the broadcaster had recruited Davina McCall to help front some of its cycling coverage in this summer’s Olympic Games, with the TV star’s publicist saying that there had been confusion as a result of her role as a Team GB Ambassador at London 2012.
The Million Pound Drop Live presenter was quoted in this morning’s Sun as saying: “I can’t wait for the Olympics. I have bagged a tiny role — I am doing some enthusiastic speaking about cycling for the BBC but I have warned them I’m not an expert.
“I don’t know about weights of bicycles or all that, all I can say is how difficult it is to get to that stage of prowess. I’ll leave the technical stuff to the BBC’s pros.”
However, a spokesman for the BBC told the website Digital Spy that McCall did not figure in its line-up of cycling presenters, explaining: "The full lineup was announced at a press briefing a few weeks ago and has not changed since."
Among those previously confirmed by the BBC as being involved in its Olympic cycling coverage on TV will be commentator Hugh Porter, with Chris Boardman, Rob Hayles and Jamie Staff alongside him, plus reports from Jill Douglas and Ed Leigh.
McCall’s publicist told Digital Spy that the confusion arose due to McCall’s role as an ambassador for the Great Britain team during London 2012, saying: "Davina is one of 12 Team GB ambassadors and in her role as a member of the programme and also as a passionate cyclist Davina will be undertaking a number of media roles and interviews to galvanise support for the nation's athletes and specifically those on two wheels."
McCall first started cycling seriously when she formed part of the David Walliams-led team of celebrities that rode from John O’Groats to Land’s End for Sport Relief in 2010, at one point riding a two-hour turn in Scotland at night, alone, in temperatures that never got above minus ten.
Since then, she has been well and truly bitten by the cycling bug and has helped the charity Action Medical Research launch its women-only series of DIVA100 rides.
Given that one of the things that won London the Olympics was a commitment to provide a legacy including getting more people active – whether that’s actually being delivered is of course very much open to question – it could be argued that someone such as McCall may have helped engage the casual viewer in coverage.
Although some close followers of the sport might take issue with the prospect of an outsider being involved in the coverage, others might point out that the vast majority of those watching the Olympics will have had little or no previous engagement with the sport, and that anything that helps make it accessible, including recruiting a celebrity as part of the team, could only be a good thing.
It’s a moot point, of course, given that the BBC has said unequivocally that McCall doesn’t feature in its plans – but given her past experience of eviction nights on Big Brother, having her on board could have added a unique dimension to coverage of the elimination races in the men’s and women’s omniums.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.