Biography

David Vine was a multi-purpose sports presenter and commentator for the BBC for 35 years, long associated with snooker and Ski Sunday. Known for his distinctive West Country tones, he always had the assured self-confidence to weather jokes about his middle-of-the-road spectacles and jumpers.

In the 1970s, so often was he targeted that he began to seem like a resident character in Clive James's Observer television column. Once, commenting on the return of one programme with which Vine was instantly identifiable, James wrote: "Back came Ski Sunday, bringing David Vine with it. 'Just watch the way this man has the rhythm through the gates ... ooh, and he's gone! Stenmark has gone!' By now even David must be falling prey to the suspicion that he has the evil eye. All he has to do is start praising a skier for his rhythm and you know the stretcher-bearers are already moving in."

Vine's star status was confirmed when a puppet of the snooker player Steve Davis was seen on Spitting Image boasting: "I'm a mate of David Vine." Later, his popularity led to cameo appearances in French and Saunders (1987) and as a skating commentator alongside the bungling sleuths played by Jasper Carrott and Robert Powell in The Detectives (1993).

Born in Newton Abbot, Devon, Vine was brought up in Barnstaple, where he attended the local grammar school before becoming a reporter on the North Devon Journal Herald. A keen rugby player, he played for South Molton and often covered matches in which he was taking part. After national service in the army's Intelligence Corps, he joined the Western Morning News in Plymouth and rose to be sports editor. Moving to the ITV regional company Westward Television (1962-66), he set up its sports department and was seen on screen as a reporter.

In 1966, the BBC hired Vine as a presenter of the national magazine show Sportscene and he was soon a familiar face in sports coverage on both BBC1 and BBC2. He was a stand-in presenter on the Saturday afternoon programme Grandstand, became a reporter on Rugby Special and hosted the first colour broadcasts from Wimbledon in 1967, remaining presenter of the tennis tournament's highlights programmes until 1982. Any viewers who thought of him as bland had to revise their opinions when he confronted John McEnroe following the US player's "you're the pits" jibe to a Wimbledon umpire in 1981. "What right have you got to call anyone an incompetent fool?" Vine asked McEnroe. "He told me he'd never talk to me again after that," the presenter recalled, "but he did, the following day."

Vine's face was also synonymous with snooker and skiing. Snooker had already built up a television following with Pot Black, which featured the BBC's own knockout snooker competition, when, in 1977, Vine started presenting its coverage of all the major tournaments. Eight years later, 18 million viewers saw Dennis Taylor take the World Championship title with the final black ball of the final frame against the then world No 1, Steve Davis.

"I have been delighted to have been part of one of the most successful and most watched sports on television and to have seen 'unknowns' like Steve Davis, Jimmy White, Stephen Hendry and many others become some of the most famous names in the sport," said Vine after presenting his final tournament in 2000.

Ski Sunday was launched in 1978 after public interest in Franz Klammer's dramatic downhill win at the 1976 Innsbruck Winter Olympic Games, and Vine continued with it for 18 years.

Throughout his time at the BBC, Vine proved adept at hosting sports entertainment programmes. He was a presenter and commentator for the first few years of It's a Knockout (1967-71), whose absurd games between amateur athletics teams in crazy costumes were described by one critic as "a competition to perform the pointless in the quickest possible time".

He will also be remembered by many as the first presenter (1970-78) of the quiz show A Question of Sport, in which two panels of stars - originally captained by the boxer Henry Cooper and the former Welsh rugby international Cliff Morgan - had their sports knowledge put to the test. The busy Vine was succeeded by David Coleman in the chair.

Then came The Superstars (1974-84), in which Vine and Ron Pickering challenged sportsmen and women, past and present, to compete against each other in running, swimming, shooting, canoeing and cycling events, as well as showing their strengths in the gym.

Vine also hosted showjumping events, including The Horse of the Year Show, commentated on bowls and gymnastics, and covered the return to Britain of the round-the-world yachtsman Robin Knox-Johnston. Away from sport, he commentated on the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest and, a year later, presented Miss World.

He underwent triple heart bypass surgery in 2001, the year after he retired from the BBC following his final Olympics, in Sydney, as a weightlifting commentator - a specialism he had developed over many games.

Vine's first wife, Shirley May Thorpe, died in 1970; he was survived by his second wife, Mandy (born Joan C Silver), along with their son, Christian, and the son and two daughters of his first marriage, Martin, Kim and Katherine.