Sport on TV: I'm a celebrity... Can you teach me to be less narrow-minded?
Sunday 23 November 2008
Sometimes there really is nowhere to run. Just ask Scott Carson, trapped inside a recurring nightmare but one that the whole country can share. Next time he plays for England, he'll probably find himself running on to the pitch with no clothes on.
One of the obvious ways in which Linford Christie has been blessed by nature is his ability to run away from a bad situation at high speed. He'd certainly be able to keep away from that big white blob that used to chase Number Six around in 'The Prisoner'. But if you did stick him in prison, there would be nowhere to run. And that's exactly what they did in the latest incarnation of 'The Prisoner' (Virgin 1, Thursday).
This series places famous people in eight of the world's most dangerous jails. The latest instalment was rather disconcertingly prefaced with the words "contains scenes of butchery", and it had nothing to do with Diego Maradona's visit to Glasgow. Was this not taking the concept of 'I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!' just a little too far?
The Olympic sprint gold medallist had already spent time visiting his brother when he was imprisoned in England. This time they sent Linford to Belize Central Prison, the only jail in the former British colony that clings to the Caribbean coastline in a growing state of gangland disarray and social decay. Christie spent three days in the correctional facility, talking to teenage gangsters such as Aduan Usher, murderers, rapists, lifers, death-rowers – and, quite rightly, he kept bemoaning the fact that he didn't have any prison guards accompanying him. Just a poor cameraman who didn't have Christie's speed over the ground and had a big piece of equipment to cart around.
It added a certain frisson. The guards were all on the roof, and you hoped their aim was half-decent. Then Christie found himself in a cell shared by 13 kids awaiting trial for murder, and having to wait for years before even being charged. A guard had showed up by then, but he stayed outside. Time was moving slowly in that room, not least for Linford.
"I came as a hardliner and I've changed my way of thinking," Christie admitted. "They are human beings."
Earlier he had agreed that solitary confinement in a stinking hole was suitable punishment for a lady who indulged in a lesbian affair. He had said, "Prison should be as harsh as possible to act as a deterrent," and described the 17-year-old Usher as "a teenage callous murderer and he hasn't got a conscience". Two weeks later, Usher was released without charge.
As a self-proclaimed "mentor to young people" who "trains boys like this back home", perhaps he will be a little less quick to judge in future. It seems that the penal system did work for Linford, in more ways than one.
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