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BBC sports presenter Clare Balding's grandmother called her sexuality 'disgusting'

By Adam Withnall

The BBC sports presenter Clare Balding has revealed that her grandmother thought it was “disgusting” when she came out as gay.

Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, she told host Kirsty Young it was “kind of weird” when her sexuality was made public by a newspaper around 10 years ago.

Balding was pictured with the BBC newsreader Alice Arnold when they attended a film premiere together, and though her parents already knew she was gay at the time, her grandmother did not.

“I said ‘Grandma, I need to talk to you’ and she said ‘Yes I should think you do’,” Balding said in the interview broadcast today.

“I said ‘Have you seen the paper?’ and she said ‘Yes and I think it's disgusting’.

“I said ‘What do you mean? The invasion of my privacy or my lifestyle choice’ and she said ‘Both’ and I didn't talk to her for about six months after that which was pretty difficult.”

Balding is set to front the BBC’s coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and today said it was “right” for her not to boycott the games over the country’s gay rights record.

Over the summer President Vladimir Putin passed controversial legislation which loosely outlawed “homosexual propaganda”, and has been used as a basis for banning any pro-gay protests, publications, artwork and education.

Desert Island Discs presenter Young asked if she could go to Sochi with a “clear conscience”, to which Balding replied: “Absolutely. Because I think it's hugely important that I do go.”

She said she was willing to “make a moral stand on things”, pointing to her refusal to attend the Open at all-male golf club Muirfield last summer, but added that it would “make absolutely no difference at all to anyone in Russia” if she decided not to go.

Her decision has been backed by the prominent gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who said she should present for the BBC “as an openly lesbian woman” and “show solidarity with gay Russians”.

Balding was one of the lead presenters in the BBC’s coverage of the 2012 London Olympics, and received an OBE earlier this year for services to Broadcasting and Journalism.

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