Capturing the spirit of 2008
Some of our BBC Sport offices around Television Centre are beginning to empty as our production team moves to Liverpool for this year's Sports Personality Of The Year.
The set is being installed; rehearsals in the Echo Arena will soon be under way; and then the giants of the sporting world will be converging on Merseyside ready for Sunday night's programme.
As ever, there's plenty of press comment - mainly around the incredibly competitive shortlist for this year's main awards, though there's the usual mixture of wit, wisdom and acid comments about the show itself.
I have no problem with commentators commenting - and people like Marina Hyde always make me laugh in the most positive sense - but it's worth explaining why Sports Personality has changed over the years.
Like all awards programmes, it went into something of a decline in the 2000s. From an average audience of 8.5m in 2003 it fell to 6.2m in 2004 and then to a low of 5.1m in 2005.
That was partly why we changed the format and took the show on the road with the public invited for the first time - with considerable success. We bucked the terrestrial TV trend - almost all programmes have declined in the multichannel era - by increasing the average to 5.9m in 2006 for our first year in Birmingham, and then 6.8m last year. Almost 9m saw Joe Calzaghe pick up his award.
Now, before anyone says it is: it's not just about ratings. It's about celebrating a sporting year and showcasing the big national moments. But equally we'd have been negligent if we allowed SPOTY to go into further decline and end up marginalised on the fringes of the schedule. This is a programme that has to work for a mass audience on BBC One on a Sunday night.
No Sports Personality is ever without controversy so let me pick up on some issues ahead of the show.
First, there are occasional comments about the fairness of the voting. To be clear, we publish the details about how this works and all the voting is overseen by an independent verification process. We ourselves have no idea who will win on the night, and no votes have been cast until the moment the phone lines open on the show.
Second, there was some debate last year about the fact the event was supported by Robinsons. The BBC Trust upheld some complaints against the programme, but they also gave permission for this year's event once more to be supported by Robinsons as long as it was within the revised guidelines they'd laid down.
We in BBC management have decided that we will not in future have commercial sponsorship of these kind of events - but Robinsons' participation is part of a two-year agreement, and we're grateful to them for their support of the 2008 Sports Personality Event.
Finally, all of us in the team have read and enjoyed the comments made in Carl Doran's blog and in an earlier one from me. We realise that Sports Personality is a major part of the BBC's heritage and it's a show we all want to succeed. It can't do it by standing still, and this year's challenge includes our biggest ever live audience at the venue - getting on for 9000 - and the task of telling the story of an amazing year of sport in just two hours.
We won't be able to include every moment, but we're going to do our best to capture the spirit of 2008 and to provide a little cheer amid the gloom of the daily news agenda. We really hope you enjoy it.