Robin Scott-Elliot: Britain's weepiest man
Sport on TV: In at the deep end with the synchronised crying
Saturday 09 August 2008
It's been an emotionally soaking week. It began with Michael Vaughan's tear-strewn farewell before the dam burst with Olympic Dreams (BBC 1), the last of an endearing series.
In years to come Tom Daley is going to experience the pressures of being in the media spotlight that so publicly laid England's cricket captain bare. The engaging Daley seems certain to become the poster boy for the 2012 Games (when Chinese journalists will report back on the locals' peculiar eating habits – eels in jelly – and struggle to breathe in Hackney's traffic-clogged streets) and with that will come growing expectation and all the ensuing hassles. Let's go easy on him.
The likes of Daley apart, most Olympians only sprint, sail, tumble, leap or cycle into the spotlight every four years – for all the broadcaster's initial enthusiasms, coverage of curling or sailing doesn't take long to dwindle. There might have been moments of late when Vaughan envied the fleetingness of their strut upon the stage. Sky Sports News, a channel without a soul, was soon promising, with an element of glee, to replay Vaughan's au revoir in full. But tears in sport are not mocked as they were in the days when Kim Hughes undermined a nation's manhood by breaking down as he quit as Australia's cricket captain, or when Mary "Boo-Hoo" Decker limped out of the LA Games. Which is just as well for Rob Daley, Tom's dad.
Daley Snr is an emotional man, understandably so having survived a brain tumour and then seen his son become an Olympian at the age of 14. "When London got the Games, believe it or not I cried," said Rob, a confession on a par with George W Bush admitting his geography's not so hot.
Rob paid his way to Beijing and bought a ticket off a tout to watch his son's attempt to confirm qualification for the Games. Tom took bronze in his synchronised event; Rob cried. Tom qualified in the individual event as well; Rob cried. If you are heading out to China and find yourself sitting next to Rob in the Water Cube, have a tissue handy.
Britain's Strongest Man (Channel 5) brought tears to the eyes, particularly when Dean Slater, a large Brummie and once of a rock band, did something unpleasant to a biceps as he tried to lift a trailer of barrels (because it's there?). "It just went doooing," explained Slater as the doctor examined him.
Slater was one of the more coherent among the competitors at Butlins in Minehead, communication not being an important part of a strongman's armoury. "Jimmy, how do you feel?" asked Martin Bayfield, the suitably large-scale host. "Oooarghugra," suggested Jimmy Marku, struggling nobly to recapture his breath having heaved something very heavy along the beach. Jimmy had a large sticking plaster on his forehead, the result of a "serious" car crash a week earlier; these are not men to mess with, although you could probably run away from them without too much trouble if you had, say, just reversed into Jimmy's car. If not, it would end in tears.
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