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Taste Maker: Clare Balding CBE

17 May 2024
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In this instalment of our Taste Maker series, we spoke with Clare Balding CBE, a renowned sports broadcaster, author, and advocate for diversity and inclusion in sports. With a career spanning decades and covering iconic sporting events from Horse Racing to the Olympic Games, Clare brings a wealth of experience, insight, and passion to our discussion. As a beloved figure in the world of sports commentary and journalism, Clare’s unique perspective offers an intriguing lens through which to explore the shared values and ethos between her work and Nyetimber’s dedication to excellence, tradition, and innovation.


You have an amazing enthusiasm for horse racing, and you’ve played a key role in bringing the sport to a wider audience. What do you think sets horse racing apart as a sport, and what do you hope audiences take away from their experience of watching or attending the races?


I love horses so I think all of the equestrian sports have a beauty in the form of the animals and the relationship between them and their riders is very special. Racing crowds tend to be wonderfully varied and a day at the races gives you a full experience of sport, socialising and fun. There is a real sense of anticipation before each race and the crescendo of noise as the runners enter the final furlong is uplifting.


Nyetimber has a long-standing tradition of celebrating moments of joy and success both big and small. How do you like to celebrate those “small victories”? Is it through enjoying a cherished meal, savouring a glass of sparkling wine unexpectedly on a weekday, or perhaps buying something sentimental that forever connects you to that moment?


I love to have a photo of fun family gatherings and it really makes me smile when memories come up on my phone or iPad. A toast with friends and family or a meal out together is a lovely way to celebrate. The company is the main thing but it’s always nice to pop a cork and share the moment.


With your extensive coverage of seven Olympic Games, six Paralympic Games, and six Winter Olympic Games, you’ve undoubtedly witnessed moments of triumph and resilience among athletes. While we often witness elation in medallists, at Nyetimber, we value celebrating the journey, championing dedication, and perseverance irrespective of the outcome. How have you observed individuals and teams acknowledging their efforts?


I try very hard not to ask champions how they feel in the moment after their victory because often I think they are too emotionally drained to be feeling anything! Instead, I ask what it means to them, which often gets a good answer and who has helped them to this point, which gives them a chance to pay tribute to those who have got them to the top. Any high achiever in sport has put in years of hard graft, doing the boring stuff day in, day out and I think it’s important to celebrate that effort, rather than pretend it happened just by sheer talent alone. I particularly love seeing teams celebrate together and there are so many occasions when I’ve thought “I want to be in that team!”

For example, the England Lionesses who won the Euros, the GB Hockey team who won gold in Rio, or the England Netball team who won gold at the Commonwealth Games. They had all worked so hard, had experiences a series of disappointing results and finally triumphed. They were aware of their legacy and wanted to have a positive influence on future generations. They encapsulate the inspirational power of sport in making viewers not only feel better but believe they themselves can achieve more.


Your passion for storytelling is evident in both your broadcasting and the books that you have written. Can you share with us a story or moment from your career that you believe encapsulates the power of storytelling to inspire, educate, or connect with audiences on a profound level?


I was in a brilliant position during London 2012 of working on both the Olympics and Paralympics and because we had the prime hosting location for the swimming, I had the chance to do interviews with the friends and family of key swimmers. Therefore when Chad le Close beat the great Michael Phelps to win his first Olympic gold medal, I managed to get an interview with Chad’s dad, Bert. He is the most wonderful character and he gave such an emotional, uplifting interview in which he made it clear how ‘unbelievable’ the moment was. In a million different ways, he said ‘that’s my son and I love him’ and it really connected with people. I think parents and partners have always done so much to support the athlete and it’s lovely to get them involved. I remember interviewing Steve Redgrave’s wife and parents in Sydney and also after my brother trained the winner of the Oaks at Epsom in 2003, I tried to interview him and my father with little success because all of us were crying too much to be able to speak. Sometimes, to quote Ronan Keating, “you say it best when you say nothing at all.”


Throughout your career, you’ve been praised for your versatility and adaptability as a broadcaster, covering a wide range of sports and events. Is there a sport or event that you haven’t had the chance to cover yet, but would love to explore in the future?


I had the most brilliant time with my partner, Alice, and our friends last year at the Solheim Cup in Spain. We went as fans and managed to get on the first tee twice to watch players tee off, as well as getting in the stands at the 17th green. It was so much fun and reminded me what it’s like to follow a sporting event and be fully invested because you care about the result. It made me think that rather than working on different sporting events, I want to go to more events and enjoy them as a fan.

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