Obituary: Alan Weeks

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The Independent Online
Over four decades, Alan Weeks came to be known as "the golden voice of television skating". But there was much more to him than that. This modest, friendly man with the mellifluous voice covered Monte Carlo rallies, four football World Cups, Pot Black snooker, swimming, gymnastics, and every Winter Olympic Games since 1964. Of all the sports, ice hockey was his first and dearest love.

Weeks was born in Bristol, but moved to Brighton at the age of five when his father, Captain F.C. Weeks, became piermaster. As he later recounted, it was in Brighton that he saw his first sporting star: "I swam in the Swimming Stadium and watched in wonderment as Pete Desjardins, 1928 Olympic gold medallist, performed prodigious feats from the diving board."

The Swimming Stadium in West Street was not a success, however. It reopened in 1935 as an ice rink named the Sports Stadium, also known as the SS Brighton. "Little did I imagine," wrote Weeks years later, "that my whole life would be largely influenced by this building." He learnt to skate there, and cheered the efforts of the Brighton Tigers ice hockey team. He was then at Brighton and Hove Grammar School; a fellow pupil was John Nicks, later pair skating champion of the world and now a leading coach in the United States.

At the age of 16, Weeks went to sea as a cadet in the Merchant Navy, later transferring to the Royal Naval Reserve. On demobilisation in 1946, he sought work with the Tom Arnold entertainments organisation in London and to his delight was assigned to their recently acquired Brighton Sports Stadium. He became publicity manager and secretary to Brighton Tigers hockey team. He fell in love with one of the rink's skating instructresses, Jane Huckle, and married her in 1947, two days before his 24th birthday.

One of his tasks at the ice rink was to comment on the ice hockey matches over the public address system. Among the spectators one evening was Peter Dimmock of the BBC, co-founder of the television show Sportsview. Impressed by what he heard, he invited Weeks to audition at the Empress Hall rink in Earls Court, west London. The test took place during the second period of a match - and Weeks was then told to broadcast the final period live, on the air for the first time, to thousands of listeners. He survived this stern ordeal with flying colours, and his future with the BBC was assured. But the SS Brighton still came first, and he stayed on its staff until it was closed and demolished in 1965. So great was his affection for the old building that in 1988 he, Valerie Moon, and Marilyn Hoskins, stars of some of the ice shows there, organised a reunion in Hove for some 250 skaters and fans.

The BBC's first live television outside broadcast from the south coast was a 60-minute excerpt from Brighton's Ice Circus of 1952, with Weeks as commentator. Six years later the BBC began covering European and World figure skating championships. From 1958 until his retirement at the centenary World Figure Skating Championships at Edmonton, Alberta, in March this year, Weeks reported every major skating event, including the 1967 world roller championships. Even at 72 he still sounded young and enthusiastic.

Weeks reported ice sports for 38 years, gymnastics for 27, football for 23 and swimming for 20. His work took him to 26 different countries. He was popular among Britain's Olympic sports folk as "the gold medal commentator", for it fell to him to narrate the victory ceremonies for the skaters John Curry, Robin Cousins, Christopher Dean and Jayne Torvill, and the swimmers David Wilkie and Duncan Goodhew. Weeks was best known for his skating commentaries, never speaking too much but always ready with the name of the complex jump or lift which the viewer had just seen. In 1990 the world ice titles were determined in Halifax, Nova Scotia; as he told Enid Lowe of Ice Age magazine, he was able to revisit some old haunts - his ship had docked there during the Second World War.

Alan Weeks and I knew each other for half a century, from the days when I took my first faltering steps on the SS Brighton ice, and his wife was a schoolfriend of my sister Joan. We were last in touch two months ago, when he rang me on his return from Edmonton about the biography which Liz Solkhon and I were planning to write. "I just have to go for a medical check-up," he said, "then you must come over to discuss it."

Alan Frederick Weeks, sports commentator: born Bristol 8 September 1923; public relations officer, Sports Stadium, Brighton 1946-65; Secretary, Brighton Tigers Ice Hockey Club 1946-65; BBC sports commentator 1951-96; director, London Lions Ice Hockey Club 1973-74, director, Sports Aid Foundation 1976-83, governor 1983-96; married 1947 Jane Huckle (one son, and one son and one daughter deceased); died Hove 11 June 1996.