Sport on TV: Pregnant with possibilities? No, just diving behind the sofa
Sunday 11 July 2010
Tom Daley's story is an inspirational one. Now 16, the diver finds his father a little bit embarrassing when he insists on a cuddle during a press conference, but Rob has apparently never missed a training session since his son first took the plunge aged six. Now Tom's a world champion, and one of Britain's best prospects for a gold medal in two years' time.
So what are we to make of Dive (BBC1, Thursday and Friday), doubtless the first of many fictional portrayals of Olympian dreams in the build-up to London 2012? Sixteen-year-old diving girl meets boy, gets pregnant, and her golden ambition seems all but still-born. If teenage pregnancy was an Olympic sport, Britain would be guaranteed a medal.
The support network didn't look promising from the start. Lindsey McCallum's dad takes off straightaway, with some sound Homeric advice (the Simpson, not the ancient Greek): "People fail, you know." Mum instantly shacks up with her lover and imparts some similar wisdom: "If I've learnt anything, it's that you never know what's going to happen next."
That's not strictly true of this programme. Next comes the Special Brew and the spliffs in the park, and before you can say Juan Antonio Samaranch, Lindsey has lost her cherry under an apple tree. We've just seen her in a sex education class fiddling with a condom, so naturally we know that her boyfriend Robert's sperm will dive in and swim to the egg with great enthusiasm.
It's all very well filmed but could it be any more trite? Well, yes it could. Throw in the most insistent violin score you could possibly imagine – 'Platoon' meets John Cale of the Velvet Underground – and it becomes even cornier. The droning strings make South Africa's vuvuzelas sound like the heavenly host, but perhaps when the Games come to London this will be the mournful soundtrack of the host city. As for the corniness, it would never get past the footbath at your local pool – if you had one.
But perhaps this is to underestimate the potency of the message in this simple, modern-day parable: that you can succeed against all odds (boyfriend looks after baby at poolside, incidentally). It's not as if you have to become an Olympic champion in two years and also manage to raise a child, but if the Games leave a legacy of inspiration to the downtrodden but not downhearted, then that might well be enough.
Maybe the baby is a metaphor for the rebirth of a nation's sporting aspirations, the pool like some massive amniotic sac where the gene pool becomes a pool of talent. But it doesn't wash. In the end this is just a slow, plodding saga, rather like our athletes in track and field, and vastly inferior to any half-decent soap opera. The East Enders of 2012 are going to have to do a lot better than this.
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