David Coleman
Sports commentator David Coleman Youtube

David Coleman, whose unique voice provided the commentary for hundreds of classic sporting moments, has died after a short illness. He was 87.

The commentator, a former runner who joined the BBC in 1954, commentated on 11 Olympic Games and six World Cups, plus countless other sporting events. The host of the quiz show A Question of Sport for 18 years, he also presented Grandstand, Sportsnight and - from 1961 to 1983 - the BBC's Sports Review of the Year.

Among many notable broadcasts, Coleman commentated on England's classic 1970 World Cup match against Brazil and he also interviewed the Beatles at the height of their fame.

Awarded the OBE in 1992, Coleman had an idiosyncratic style that was much imitated - and spoofed, in shows such as Spitting Image. He continued to work for the BBC until his retirement in 2000. That year he became the first broadcaster to receive the Olympic Order award.

Coleman was hugely respected across the sporting world and on the announcement of his death tributes soon poured in. Fellow commentator and Olympic gold medallist Brendan Foster called Coleman the "greatest sports broadcaster that ever lived".

On his Twitter account former footballer turned commentator Gary Lineker said:

Coleman's occasional gaffes were cruelly lampooned and Private Eye continues to run variants on its famous "Colemanballs" column in which it publishes malapropisms by commentators. Coleman was unamused when he discovered an anthology of "Colemanballs" in his local bookshop, but never sued.

With so many thousands of hours of live commentary under his belt, it's perhaps not surprising that even Coleman occasionally made a mistake ("If that had gone in, it would have been a goal"); but most will remember him as being one of the finest commentators of his time.

BBC director general Tony Hall said: "David Coleman was one of this country's greatest and most respected broadcasters. Generations grew up listening to his distinctive and knowledgeable commentary. Whether presenting, commentating or offering analysis, he set the standard for all today's sports broadcasters."

Watch highlights of Coleman's long career on YouTube, below: