Superflops! BBC takes the shine off golden Olympians with new version of TV favourite
20:29 GMT, 30 December 2012
With Strictly Come Dancing all danced out, the BBC had to find something for the crucial Saturday night spot and for one week only that something turned out to be Strictly Team GB — or Superstars 2012, to give the programme its proper name.
The sequins had gone, to be replaced by rain droplets on the kind of wet T-shirts that would attract precious few unique visitors on the web.
Sparing every expense, the Beeb had taken 16 British Olympians to Bath for the waters. It poured for the two days of filming, merely adding to a distinct lack of glamour.
Macho with dips: Anthony Joshua (left) and Alistair Brownlee battle it out in the gym
For Strictly lovers, however, there was the rather delightful sight of Mo Farah doing a passable Viennese waltz in a kayak, proving that even a double gold medallist can finish up the proverbial creek with a paddle.
Another mildly amusing moment came when Alistair Brownlee — as the Olympic triathlon champion, a man clearly of many talents — managed to land a javelin backwards in possibly a first for the field sport.
Otherwise, the laughs were thin on the sodden ground, despite the efforts of the irritatingly jolly Iwan Thomas.
It was probably a tactical error by the BBC to remind viewers how Superstars used to be by showing clips of Kevin Keegan falling off his bike at full speed and Brian Jacks defying belief with his extraordinary gym tests.
Up for the challenge: Mo Farah takes part in the men's bike race
These vintage television moments merely emphasised the defects of the latest incarnation in terms of absence of tension, lack of fierce competitiveness and distinct shortage of sporting prowess.
The impression was of a village sports day, without the nastiness, in a cynical but feeble attempt by the BBC to eke a few more miles out of London 2012.
For all that, two extremely worthy and convincing winners were crowned in Anthony
Joshua, the Olympic super-heavyweight boxing champion, and rowing gold medallist Helen Glover.
From the moment that the 6ft 6in Joshua ran the 100 metres in an astonishing 11.53 seconds (a second and a half quicker than Farah) you sensed a talent and the likely Superstars champion. So did Joshua himself. ‘I really want to win this and I reckon I can,’ he told Thomas after that first event.
There followed further victories in the cycling and the javelin, second places in both the swimming and gym tests and a third in the 800m. Despite proving himself a real all-rounder, Joshua was not entirely happy.
Off target: Christine Ohuruogu has a go at the archery
‘I missed out on the gym test Wow!’ was Joshua’s reaction to coming second in that discipline. ‘So, I would like to know who won the gym test now.’ Ever since the aforementioned Jacks recorded 118 squat thrusts and 100 parallel bar dips (both in 60 seconds) in 1980, the stench of machismo surrounds the gym test.
Scottish swimmer Michael Jamieson, who pipped Joshua, would have been forgiven for ducking after describing it as the most ‘prestigious’ of the disciplines. He was standing next to the boxer at the time.
We do not know the reaction of Joshua or any of the eight men when it emerged that Glover had beaten them all in the squat thrusts with an impressive 84.
On her knees: Lizzie Armitstead during the gym test
The rower also achieved a faster time than any of the boys in the swimming pool as well as finishing victorious in both the 800m and the cycling. It mattered not that she did not so much throw her javelin as drop it.
Katherine Grainger’s victory in the spear-chucking department with a modest 24.93m prompted hosts Gabby Logan and Denise Lewis to talk, in customary exaggerated terms, of a ‘new career’ and ‘hidden talent’. Well, 20 years younger and 20 metres further and Grainger might manage county selection at schools level.
That’s the truth of the level of some of the performances. I have never understood the attraction of watching our sporting heroes vulnerable, fallible and, frankly, inept.
On your marks: The men run the 100m in the rain
But if that’s your bag, you no doubt would have delighted in double gold medallist rower Andrew Triggs Hodge running (if that’s the word) the 100m in 19.37sec, cyclist Lizzie Armitstead managing two parallel bar dips and the elder of the Brownlee brothers only bettering Armitstead by four, shooter Peter Wilson taking three hours — maybe minutes — for the 800m and Christine Ohuruogu firing an arrow in the air and landing who knows where.
At least the viewing public will not be subjected to this until the next time the Olympic Games come to Britain.
The class of 2012: The Olympians who took part in Superstars