After almost 40 years working on the BBC’s athletics coverage, Brendan Foster has announced he is to hang up his microphone after the IAAF World Athletics Championships at the London Stadium this August.
Following a distinguished career as one of Britain’s greatest track athletes, Foster quickly established himself as one of the most popular voices of the sport on television, with his voice synonymous with many of athletics’ greatest moments.
He will now step down in August after working for BBC Sport on nine summer Olympic Games, every Commonwealth Games since 1982 and every World Athletics Championships since its debut back in 1983.
He has also been ever present at the London Marathon since its inception in 1981 but his co-commentary at The Mall on Sunday, April 23, will be his 37th and last.
On his decision to retire from commentating after nearly 40 years, Brendan told the BBC:
“I have loved every minute of my time working for BBC Sport. It has genuinely been a privilege and I am very lucky to have done what I have done since my competitive career finished.
“My very first commentary was shortly after the 1980 Olympics at a Cross Country event at Gateshead and that’s when I started to work with the greatest sports broadcaster of all time David Coleman.
“David was just so professional and diligent and he taught me so much – from what to say and how to say it – and he also taught me that if you want to be a good commentator or analyst, you have to be prepared and do your research and work hard.
“After David retired, Steve Cram took over and working with Crammy for almost 20 years has been so special too. It maybe because of our North East roots we developed a chemistry on air that worked so well.
“We have had so many special days, and those recently with Sir Mo Farah winning golds galore, particularly at the Olympic Games, are commentaries that stick out in the memory as we have witnessed true greatness. Mo’s achievements are unlikely to be beaten by any British athlete in history.”
Affectionately known as ‘Big Bren’, Foster won many major medals as an athlete in the 1970s where he became a European and Commonwealth champion over 5,000 and 10,000 metres – and he also won an Olympic 10,000m bronze medal at the Montreal Olympics of 1976.
Two years earlier in 1974, Brendan broke the 3,000m world record on his home track at Gateshead and also became the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year.
In 1973, he broke the two miles world record and in his decorated track career, overall, Brendan competed at three summer Olympic Games – 1972, 1976 and 1980.
In 1981, Brendan founded the Great North Run – the Worlds biggest half marathon. Over a million people have now taken part in the race – the first IAAF event to pass this milestone.
After retiring from athletics, Foster made the transition to the BBC commentary box, working alongside the likes of David Coleman, Stuart Storey, Paul Dickenson, Steve Cram over his near four-decade-long career. Foster added:
“I have commentated on some great races, run by some of the very best athletes of all time Seb Coe, Steve Cram, Paula Radcliffe, Haile Gebrselassie, Kenenisa Bekele, David Rudisha and of course Mo. I have been lucky.
“It’s also been an honour to work with so many great people who have been a part of the BBC Athletics team – both in front of and behind the camera. I’ve made many friends and had so many great experiences along the way and I will miss it very much.
“This year is like a bookend for me. As an athlete 40 years ago I went to the Montreal Olympics aiming for a double-double in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres and I was beaten in both races by the great Lasse Viren of Finland.
“This year, the greatest British athlete of all time, Sir Mo, will attempt his last double-double and it will be on the track in London where he famously won his Olympic golds.
“So for me as an athlete and a commentator it just seems the right time and the right place at a world championships in the United Kingdom to say thank you and goodbye.”
Brendan was made an MBE in 1976, appointed CBE in 2008 and in December 2016, was given the Freedom of the City of Newcastle – it’s highest honour.
He is still chairman of Nova International who organise the Great North Run and many similar events around the country.
To mark his outstanding contribution to the London Marathon, Brendan has also been chosen as the 2017 recipient of the John Disley London Marathon Lifetime Achievement Award.
HRH Prince Harry, Patron of the London Marathon Charitable Trust, will present Brendan with the award following the race on Sunday.
Paying tribute to Foster’s contribution to the BBC’s athletics coverage, Barbara Slater, BBC Director of Sport, said:
“Brendan’s knowledge, instinct, tone, timing and skill have been wonderful to listen to and he has given all of us so many great moments.
“His words and iconic commentaries will be heard for years to come. All of us at BBC Sport will miss Brendan and wish him all the very best for the future.”
Foster will retire from commentating after this year’s IAAF World Athletics Championships at the London Stadium, the venue for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The championships is the highlight of a busy summer of athletics on the BBC, which also includes the Diamond League, featuring the London Anniversary Games and Birmingham Grand Prix, as well as the British Championships, London Marathon and Great North Run.