Worth the licence fee alone! Sportsmail remembers Superstars as Olympic stars sign-up for one-off revival of TV classic
16:36 GMT, 14 November 2012
Never mind Newsnight-gate, who would not willingly pay their licence fee just for the sight of Wayne Rooney doing a Kevin Keegan and falling off his bike while racing against the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Andy Murray, Rory McIlroy, Johnny Wilkinson, Ben Ainslie and the like
Well that’s not going to happen, not in the multi-million football world where players are investments as much as sporting icons.
But BBC’s one-off revival of Superstars this Christmas, featuring a host of British Olympic medallists, could see Mo Farah capsizing his kayak, as you do, or Christine Ohuruogu drowning.
Cult status: Kevin Keegan crashes in original TV show of Superstars
Britain's Olympic stars are to take part in one-off revival of 1970s cult television show Superstars.
Gold medalists Mo Farah, Katherine Grainger, Jade Jones and Alistair Brownlee will be among 16 competitors who will tackle eight events: track races over 100m and 800m, archery, javelin, a 50m swim, a kayak race, a cycling hill climb and the challenges in the gym tests.
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As severe as the latter may sound, it
was always the fish-out-of-water potential for disaster from one
sportsman trying to master an alien sport that appealed to the
programme’s large following during the 1970s and 1980s.
The defining moment of the show came
in 1976 at, of all places, Bracknell when Keegan, still very much in his
pomp with Liverpool and England, crashed his bicycle during an episode
of European Superstars.
Despite suffering nasty cuts and
abrasions, he insisted on racing again and finishing second on the way
to ultimate victory via a win in the steeplechase.
Viewers loved and admired Keegan for
his courage while laughing at his embarrassment. At least I did and I
think most of the audience felt the same.
The mixture of humour, of great
sportsmen demonstrating frailty and of the participation (at least in
the early days) of some giants of sport proved a potent ratings mixture.
Bobby Moore, no less, Jackie Stewart,
Tony Jacklin and Welsh rugby legend Barry John were included in the
first line up in 1973, though no-one got near David Hemery who became
more famous for the Superstars performances than his victory in the 400
metres hurdles at the Mexico Olympics five years earlier.
Mick Channon, John Conteh, James
Hunt, Gareth Edwards, Daley Thompson and Geoff Hurst – it was very much a
male dominated environment at that time – were others who found
themselves in that place without a puddle having to explain themselves
breathlessly to David Vine.
Stellar cast: Bobby Moore, Joe Bugner and Geoff Capes were among the original Superstars
GOLD STANDARD COMPETITORS
The full list: Alastair and Jonathan
Brownlee, Mo Farah, Robbie Grabarz, Michael Jamieson, Anthony Joshua,
Andrew Triggs Hodge, Peter Wilson, Nicola Adams, Lizzie Armistead, Laura
Bechtolsheimer, Gemma Gibbons, Helen Glover, Katherine Grainger, Jade
Jones and Christine Ohuruogo.
But the real stars of that era were
judo master Brian ‘Squat Thrust’ Jacks and World Superstars champion
Brian Hooper, pool vaulter turned demented kayaker. At least that is how
I remember his thrashing through the water leaving everyone in his
Part of the attraction was the fierce
competition. While some were prepared to play for laughs, many took it
very seriously indeed. I seem to remember Daley Thompson placing a watch
under his body to monitor his squat thrusts, a move which prompted
Jacks, the King of the Squats, to put an orange in the same place.
Who, like me, remembers Malcolm
MacDonald running the 100 metres in an astonishing 10.9 seconds only to
prove an even more impressive marksman despite having never previously
fired a pistol
Who could forget big scarey boxer Joe Bugner being frightened to attempt the water jump during the steeplechase
Or renowned hellraiser Stan Bowles
literally shooting himself in the foot. Apparently, Bowles and James
Hunt, another notiorious party animal, had been out the night before.
Count me in: Double Olympic champion Mo Farah will be one of those to take part
Great memories from the days when
live sport was limited almost to the three Rs – racing, rugby and
(w)restling – and Superstars provided some action for the starved sports
Maybe that diminished sports
portfolio explains part of the reason that why the Beeb have resurrected
this oldie. That and the success of the Olympics, of course.
There are no fewer than 10 gold
medallists taking part in the Christmas special. But most will not
remain household names in the years to come.