When it’s on
Sunday, from 6.40pm. When “Spoty” began in 1954 it was a low-key affair: 45 minutes in total, including a no-frills 45-second trophy presentation. This year there’s a different vibe: two hours and 20 minutes of montage, music and uneasy banter, featuring an unprecedented 16-strong shortlist for the main award. It all takes place at Birmingham’s Genting Arena – the fourth time it has been staged in Birmingham. Aside from London, no other city has staged it more than once.
1954’s effort – Sports Review of the Year, hosted by the late Peter Dimmock at Television Centre – was solemn, besuited stuff, based around the Radio Times asking readers to cast their votes by postcard. These days it’s an arena stage show featuring a live audience of 12,000, a performance from Robbie Williams and online and phone voting.
This year is all about Rio. Since 2012 the shortlist has comprised either 10 or 12 athletes, but a record-breaking year in Olympic and Paralympic sport led to the increase to 16. Only Gareth Bale and Jamie Vardy on the list did not compete in Rio, while Danny Willett’s Masters victory forced his inclusion. It was picked by a 12-strong panel, including Ryan Giggs, Victoria Pendleton, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and the Observer’s Amy Lawrence.
The contenders: Sports Personality of the Year
Andy Murray is the overwhelming favourite to make Sports Personality history on Sunday. No athlete in the show’s 62-year history has won the main award three times. Henry Cooper, Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill and each won it twice. Murray received the award in 2013, when he first won Wimbledon, and last year, when he led Britain’s Davis Cup triumph. He was third in 2012, thanks to his first Wimbledon final, claiming Olympic gold and winning the US Open, the first grand slam singles title for a British man since 1936. If Murray wins, expect another awkward, satellite-delayed link to Miami, where he is in a winter training block that was delayed by his father’s wedding. He is preparing for next month’s Australian Open, his first grand slam tournament as the No1 seed. “I would have [gone] if my dad wasn’t getting married,” Murray said. “I would have gone to Miami earlier and come back for it, but because I am not able to go to Miami until I am, I can’t afford to come back and lose a few days.”
The shortlist of 16: Nicola Adams (boxing), Gareth Bale (football), Alistair Brownlee (triathlon), Sophie Christiansen (equestrian), Kadeena Cox (athletics/cycling), Mo Farah (athletics), Jason Kenny (cycling), Laura Kenny (cycling), Andy Murray (tennis), Adam Peaty (swimming), Kate Richardson-Walsh (hockey), Nick Skelton (equestrian), Dame Sarah Storey (cycling), Jamie Vardy (football), Max Whitlock (gymnastics), Danny Willett (golf).
Team of the year
There’s plenty to ponder in Sunday’s other categories. After 2012’s Games there was a slight fudge to the rules and the team award was won by “Team GB and ParalympicsGB”. 2016 has also been record-breaking summer for Team GB (67 medals) and ParalympicsGB (147), and there were teams within the team – women’s hockey won their first gold medal, and British Cycling mopped up 12 medals, though various controversies in the sport have made 2016 somewhat mixed for them. But Leicester City’s 5,000-1 Premier League triumph caught the imagination of the world, and looks even more sensational in light of the start they have made to this season. Elsewhere Wales made it to the Euro 2016 semi-finals and were knocked out by the eventual champions, Portugal. England’s rugby union team, meanwhile, recorded a 100% year that included a grand slam and unprecedented 3-0 win in Australia in their 13 victories.
Coach of the year
There’s no nationality restriction on this award so the Australian Eddie Jones and Italian Claudio Ranieri are strong contenders alongside Chris Coleman for masterminding the aforementioned successes.
Usain Bolt (three more Olympic golds, taking his tally to nine) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Champions League win with Real Madrid and Euro 2016 triumph with Portugal) will slug this one out.
Young Sports Personality
This one is already in the bag – 15-year-old swimmer Ellie Robinson, who has a form of dwarfism that left her on crutches aged 11, won Paralympic gold in the S6 50m butterfly final with a Games record as well as picking up bronze in the 100m freestyle final with a British record. The 18-year-old Ospreys wing Keelan Giles and 16-year-old gymnast Amy Tinkler, who won floor bronze in Rio, were also shortlisted. Former winners include Wayne Rooney and Andy Murray.
Also look out for
The lifetime achievement award, the Helen Rollason Award (for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity) and the Unsung Hero award. And watch out, too, for mentions of Chris Froome, the Tour de France champion who did not even make it on to the shortlist.