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World of Sport was a British television sport anthology programme which ran on ITV between January 2, 1965 to September 28, 1985 in response to competition from BBC's Grandstand. Like Grandstand, the programme ran for several hours every Saturday afternoon.
Eamonn Andrews was the first host and the programme itself was "compiled for Independent Television" by ABC. From the summer of 1968 it was produced by London Weekend Television - under the ITV Sport banner, with the other ITV stations supplying footage of events in their regions. Thames Television took over LWT's responsibilities for Bank Holiday editions. Dickie Davies also took over as host in 1968 and would remain the face of the show until it ended in 1985. Other presenters were Fred Dinenage & Jim Rosenthal.
The programme's title is similar to Wide World of Sports. The proposed title was changed because the initial programmes featured sports from hardly further than the North Circular, and early Programme Editor John Bromley felt that "Wide" World of Sports would have looked rather silly.
The show included popular segments such as On the Ball (a preview of the day's football action), The ITV Seven (horse racing), and wrestling with commentator Kent Walton. It also showed sports not seen elsewhere, such as women's hockey, netball, lacrosse, water skiing and stock car racing or sports that were not popular with the British mainstream, such as NASCAR and ice speedway. It featured bizarre sports like the World Barrel Jumping Championships, and even death-defying stunts.
It often showed show jumping and other equestrian events, especially in its earlier years, and towards the end of its life it showed snooker extensively. 'Minority' sports were a feature throughout its run. BBC had purchased the rights to as many established events as it could; a joke of the period was that the BBC were going through the list of sports in alphabetical order and had run out of cash before it reached wrestling which is how ITV got it. Two sports in particular Ten-pin bowling and Kart racing benefited from television exposure to a British public hitherto unaware of them. British stock car drivers such as Barry Lee also benefited from the show's exposure.
The programme also occasionally acquired the rights to genuinely major sporting events, such as the Tour de France and the Ryder Cup, admittedly this was in 1977 when the United States v Great Britain and Ireland match was regarded as something of a mismatch before Europe became the opposition.
A typical edition would be broadcast between 1215 and 1710 and would take on the following format.
1230 On The Ball - football preview with Brian Moore and in later years Ian St. John and Jimmy Greaves. 1300 Sports Special 1 - A wide array of sports, often including clips from US show Wide World of Sports. Less prominent sports such as bowls, water skiing, speedway, rallying and others would also feature. 1330 Racing, The ITV Seven. 1500 Sports Special 2 - see Sports Special 1. 1545 Half-Time Scores - the half-time scores from that day's football, plus racing results from races that had taken place in the previous hour. 1600 Wrestling - a mainstay of the World of Sport schedule from 1955 until it ended. Many of the wrestlers featured became household names in the UK and the greatest rivalry was between Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks 1645 Results Service - all the full-time football scores, match reports and league tables plus the last of the day's horse racing results. The FA Cup Final also featured on World of Sport - with BBC and ITV often competing for viewers by broadcasting unusual features and occasionally early starts to their broadcasts to entice viewers to watch their coverage. The Cup Final was generally the only football match that was ever shown live on World of Sport.
Despite being a sports programme with cult status, running for twenty years, it was cancelled on September 28, 1985 because of a change in emphasis at ITV Sport - racing coverage had switched to Channel 4, and there was a declining audience for wrestling at this point. Wrestling continued to have a programme at its own right but it was transmitted on lunchtimes at 12.30 rather than teatimes and stayed on air until December 1988. It was originally planned to bring US wrestling to viewers on average of once a month in this slot - three weeks of the UK version and one of the American version - but the US version only appeared about twice in the two years that it played in that slot. It has recently been re-run on The Fight Network since March, 2004. Football coverage also continued with previous On the Ball hosts Saint and Greavsie and a results service also aired during the football season. Bob Colston had been the only regular results announcer for the duration of World of Sport, John Tyrrel was the regular reader of the racing results in its later years (and continued to work on Channel 4 Racing until 1994).
Post World Of Sport
Live coverage of sports such as athletics, ice skating, and snooker continued to play a part in the Saturday afternoon schedule on ITV for some time but gradually diminshed after a few years.
The wrestling had its own slot at 12:30 in the afternoon - its own designated title sequences - viewers were promised American wrestling once a month - but it only ever appeared twice - that played in that slot for about a year - the rest of the afternoon was filled with American programmes.
As the racing had been moved to Channel 4, the decision to axe World Of Sport was necessary, as there was no sport to cover live.
ITV paid tribute to World of Sport as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations in September 2005.
World of Sport had an iconic theme tune and opening credits which featured the ITV Sport logo and the programme name as trailing banners from light aircraft. The long running theme known as The World Of Sport March was composed by Don Harper. A later theme was composed by Jeff Wayne.
Historic, noteworthy or bizarre live events broadcast
- On May 11, 1985, World of Sport switched its coverage to Valley Parade stadium as match commentator John Helm, who had been covering the game for Yorkshire Television, described the events of the Bradford fire as they unfolded.
- Eric Morecambe appeared as a guest on the Christmas Eve edition of World Sport in 1977 causing mayhem by entertaining and trying to disrupt his friend Dickie Davies' presentation links.
- The most notorious out-take of the live show featured a spoonerism from presenter Dickie Davies who mispronounced the following week's cup soccer as cop sucker, which unfortunately sounded very similar to cock sucker.
- The show featured rows of typists sat behind the main presenter, looking as though they were preparing items for the show. In fact they were administration staff at LWT, moved from their offices to the studio on a Saturday afternoon. The material they were actually typing was often scripts, internal memos or replies to fan mail.
- Fred Dinenage was the regular relief presenter for the show, occasionally standing in for Davies.
Its logo resembled a combination of a general sports ball, the terrestrial globe and a letter S.
It was parodied in the final series of Tiswas as "Backwards Sport Of World" - the sketch would start with the World Of Sport logo printed as if viewed in a mirror and the ad break theme (the one used in the commercial break in the wrestling) played backwards and featured events such as "Suction Snooker", where the referee would "hide" the balls in the pockets and the players had to suck them out - regular snooker played backwards, and a horse race which "finished" in a dead heat - horses ran backwards round a racecourse - bits of sports footage played in reverse at normal speed that looked comical when played backwards and didn't look the same whether played forwards or backwards.