God loves a trier. And best of all, Britain – perennial underachievers, the lot of us – loves someone who chokes on the big stage. In the run up to last year’s Olympics, Tom Daley was the toast of the nation. The spry and media-friendly diver was going to be our big medal hope: young and bright, he was bound to win gold.
Except that actually he’s not all that great a diver. Don’t get me wrong, he’s one of the best in the world, but he’s not the best. Which is a shame, because his attempts for the gold medal got hyped out of all proportion and when he ended up with a bronze there was a collective disappointment.
Amongst men. Amongst women and pre-teen girls, there was foaming at the mouth and endless screaming. Which television executives know can make them money. And so in deepest, darkest, recessioniest January, we saw a feeble attempt to rekindle the Olympic flame from its halycon days of July 2012.
But as anyone knows, making a fire is really fucking difficult, and it’s not helped when the main driver behind it is a poorly formatted show with Z-list celebrities and Vernon Kay in three-quarter length trousers.
Looking every bit like a manchild, Vernon (and Gabby Logan, who looked puzzled as to why a serious sports broadcaster and the daughter of Terry Yorath would be on a sloppy Saturday night ITV shitshow) gamely presented from the poolside in what can only be described as the worst television programme ITV has made since Celebrity Wrestling. And that was a doozy.
This was Strictly Come Celebrities Diving In Water, the concept of celebrities doing a task stretched to its limit. The crowd was insipid for everything other than the first three minutes of the show when Tom Daley got his bod out (at which point they screamed so much that you couldn’t hear the actual presenters trying to read their autocue) and there was no actual skill involved. All that happened was celebrities dove into the water. Most of them didn’t even attempt the flippy shit that separates a clean-pool Olympic diving competition from two-for-one entry on Saturday afternoons at your local council pool where ripped off elastoplasts clog up the water filters.
Everyone hated it. Twitter was aghast, with people literally not being sure whether they were part of a massive inside joke or not. Without overstatement, it was the worst thing on television, and the crassest and most feeble attempt to capitalise on the jingoistic spirit of the Olympics. And Tom Daley was oblivious to the terribleness of it all.
He said to The Daily Mail after the programme that he was going to sack off a university career for the bright lights of Luton swimming pool’s studios. Ignoring the massively negative public reaction and living in cloudcuckooland, Daley said
Hopefully it will run for ten years like Dancing on Ice and I can take Vernon’s spot. But I’d love to do anything like Dermot O’Leary or Ant & Dec. I’d like to present Saturday night TV, that is what I’d ultimately like to do once I’ve finished diving. I’d like to host Splash! That would be my dream job because it is a diving show, a reality show and on Saturday night primetime.
This is insane. You want an Olympic legacy? How about this Olympic legacy: Tom Daley, talented athlete, flipping burgers at his local McDonalds in 2025 because he turned down a university place to attach himself to the flimsiest piece of Saturday night dross that has ever been made. After hkis shift, he takes his free Big Mac and chips home in a bag to his one-bedroom council estate flat and munches on the food, staring at himself in the mirror and wearing his London 2012 bronze medal around his neck, wondering where it all went wrong. That was Splash!, ladies and gentlemen.