Sport on TV: The cracks start to show as travelogue sinks to new depths
Sunday 13 April 2014
Tom Daley's image is so squeaky clean that he really doesn't need to keep jumping into pools of water. Even now that his voice isn't squeaky and he has revealed that he's gay and has a Hollywood director as a partner, he has seemingly retained all the wide-eyed innocence of a child.
So you might think following him around as he goes backpacking "like an ordinary teenager" in Tom Daley Goes Global (ITV2, Thurs) is a decent enough excuse for a TV series, if only to see whether he gets his hands dirty on his travels.
But Daley is very far from being ordinary. He has been diving competitively since the age of nine under the careful guidance of his father Rob, who died in 2011 - Tom is raising funds on the trip to support The Brain Tumour Charity. And even though he has already travelled the globe attending World Cup meetings, he will only have seen the inside of hotels and swimming baths. The depth of his understanding of the world is probably about five metres.
The premise for this show is towards the shallower end of the spectrum, though it does make a refreshing change from "What didn't I do in Magaluf?" or tour reps copulating bareback in Bulgarian swimming pools (that's not an Olympic discipline yet). But it is rather like being asked to wade through someone else's holiday snaps.
Daley and his best friend Sophie head straight for the notorious hedonistic Thai resort of Kho Phangan. "There's our first ladyboy," observes Tom as they walk around in search of beach parties and fun with foam. The ears prick up and you think, golly gosh, this might be revelatory, even a bit sordid.
But no, as hordes of Brits mill around with eyes like saucers, the only drugs that these two are likely to take are pills to calm them down when they see a spider on the wall.
It's good to know that there are still people in this world who are not horribly corrupted. The life of a Olympian is by necessity closeted because of the single-mindedness required and the sheer number of hours they must spend training.
So when Daley does a sky dive in a thunderstorm in Pattaya, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that his only comment on reaching the ground is that his pants have travelled some way up his arse and he's "chafed to the max".
For a young man who spends his life wearing only a pair of skimpy trunks, these are the kind of things that are important.
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