Sport on TV: Olympic flame manages to melt the ice in Dragons' Den

Andrew Tong
Sunday 23 October 2011 06:26

The International Olympic Committee meet in Berlin this week to whittle down the number of contenders for new sports at the Games in 2016. Seven sports will make their presentations, pretty much in the style of Dragons' Den.

Such is the popularity of these programmes, perhaps reality TV could become an Olympic sport itself: Big Brother versus little brother; The Apprentice takes on the sorcerer; I'm A Drugs Cheat, Get Me Out of Here!

The subtext is the same – "Please choose me. Make me rich and famous". After all, to become an Olympic champion is not only to reach the pinnacle of your chosen sport but also to become a celebrity, an instant household name. Just look at Usain Bolt, or the ubiquitous James Cracknell.

Three statuesque young ladies came gliding into the gloomy den this week (BBC2, Wednesday) in billowing satin dresses and performed a synchronised skating routine.

They were on roller-blades and this was "learning to skate without the ice" as the hopeful entrepreneurs Karen O'Neill and Karen Coombes described it. Inline skating – or racing on blades – is the only unusual pursuit to be pitching for the 2016 Games, up against more established sports such as golf, rugby sevens and squash.

The two Karens' innovative design allows you to achieve the same angles as an ice-skater and thereby perform turns and jumps while usually "People go round the park with their inline skates and then lose interest because they can't do anything".

Theo Paphitis, the former Millwall chairman, agreed to invest £100,000 in the venture despite the fact that they had not sold a single pair of blades in the previous month.

Ice skating, for so long the only sport at the Winter Olympics that the Brits were any good at, used to grab the nation's attention every four years. It was a bit bizarre. We might want to be a Flintoff or even a Henman for a while but how many of us really want to squeeze into a sequined catsuit, slap on the make-up and fall flat on our face a thousand times in an attempt to master the triple salco?

When the Winter Olympics come to Vancouver next February, British medal hopes reside elsewhere, mainly in the bob sledding. And what could be easier to market than a sliding tea tray? Then again, who ever thought that curling, or synchronised housework on ice, would ever grip the national consciousness?

* The great Aussie larrikin Shane Warne seemed quite content amid all the gay banter on Alan Carr: Chatty Man (E4, Sunday). He patted back Carr's googlies with the straightest of bats but you could only wonder how Ricky Ponting and Co would cope with the camp comedian crouched at second slip, mercilessly questioning their manhood. Surely the selectors have missed a trick.

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