Gold Rush 1/3, Monday 5th July, 9pm, BBC One
London 2012 was brilliant. I mean, it’s easy to look back at the past with rose-tinted specs, but it really was phenomenal. My wife and I paid a king’s ransom for tickets to the athletics, ditched the kids, drank some wine, had a total ball. But I don’t just remember it fondly for having a day without the kids. That golden summer of sport was full of optimism and joy as we welcomed the world with open arms, and showed people the very best of our country.
But the sport itself… that was something else. That was little short of remarkable. Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford, Chris Hoy, Laura Trott, Jason Kenny, Charlotte Dujardin, Andy Murray, Anthony Joshua, Nicola Adams, Bradley Wiggins, Victoria Pendleton, Ben Ainslie, Jade Jones, Alistair Brownlee, it’s a roll call of greatness. Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive.
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But it hadn’t always been that way. The UK finished third in the medals table, with 65 medals, 29 of them gold, but just 16 years before, we finished a dismal 36th in the medals table, with 15 medals, including a solitary gold, behind North Korea, Kazakhstan and Algeria.
This glorious three-part documentary charts the road from the disastrous Atlanta Olympics, where only the invincible pairing of Pinsent and Redgrave won their event, to the incredible performances of 2012. It is a tale of funding, organisation, professionalism, but also of talent, courage and achievement. It is, in short, a delight.
The documentary opens with Mo Farah storming down the home straight to claim his second gold in the 5000m, cheered on by a breathless Steve Cram on commentary (Cram is, incidentally, one of the best commentators in the business, in any sport). We are shown footage of other triumphs, to gladden the heart. And then we go back to Atlanta.
It’s a catalogue of disasters and ignominy. There’s Linford Christie’s disqualification for false starting. Darren Campbell dropping the relay baton. Horses falling over, hurdlers falling over, gymnasts collapsing on the pommel horse, divers practically belly-flopping into the pool, Jonathan Edwards foul-jumping, Kelly Holmes with a stress fracture. It was as if the British team had been sponsored by the Keystone Cops.
But, with hindsight, it’s not difficult to see why. It seems unthinkable now, but our top athletes were doing full-time jobs simply to get by. Kelly Holmes was in the army. Darren Campbell worked 12-hour shifts in Tesco’s warehouse. While their opponents were training full time, with huge teams behind them, and all the best technology at their disposal, Britain’s athletes were running round the park after a tough day on the forklift. It was like sending troops into battle armed with a string of sausages. Things got so bad that, after Atlanta, some of our divers were forced to sell their Team GB tracksuits for some extra cash.
But all of that changed, in large part due to the advent of proper funding thanks to the National Lottery. John Major explains that his vision was to see Britain properly compete in world sport, both by investing in elite athletes, but also in grass roots sport. Thanks to grants, people like Sir Chris Hoy were suddenly able to concentrate on their sport full time. And British cycling in turn had more money, and took an entirely new and professional approach. Kelly Holmes was able to leave the army. Darren Campbell could train full time, under his new coach, Linford Christie. The whole British Olympic Association was modernised, under its head, Simon Clegg, who began to look at the prospect of bidding for London to host an Olympics.
But would this new approach work? Yes, dear reader, it would – and how. The first episode of this series finishes with some of the best action from Sydney 2000. Jason Queally. Chris Hoy. Darren Campbell. Jonathan Edwards. Audley Harrison. Suddenly, Britain was finishing tenth in the medal table, with 11 golds, at its most successful Olympics for 80 years. But it was just the start…
Kathy Burke: Money Talks 1/2, Monday 5th July, 10pm, Channel 4
First of all, a warning. Kathy Burke, who presents this authored documentary looking at money, wealth and poverty, and social attitudes, is not to everyone’s taste. She is vulgar, crass, and crude. The language she uses would have a squaddie reaching for the smelling salts. If you are staunchly opposed to a bit of effing and jeffing (and what, incidentally, is jeffing when it’s at home?) then you might want to give this a wide berth.
Personally, I love Kathy Burke, and I loved this programme. This episode follows her journey as she talks to a lot of rich people to find out about their approach to money and life, and to discover whether being wealthy really makes you happy. In the next episode, she’ll look at life for those on the other side of the coin – which is to say, those who barely have any coins at all.
Apparently 80% of us would be happier if we had more money. (Who in heaven’s name are the other 20%? If I gave them the option of being handed a crisp £50 note, would they really reply that they’d rather not have it?) Burke, though, is dismissive of such acquisitiveness. “It’s embedded in us that we should be striving constantly to be more successful and more rich. And I think that is why the world is so messed up.” Only she doesn’t use the word ‘messed’. I did warn you.
She meets up with Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse, and they discuss Enfield’s characters, Loadsamoney and Mr ‘Considerably Richer than You’, and the type of society they reflected at the time. Poor Whitehouse doesn’t really need to be there, to be honest, but I suppose he got a free cuppa out of it.
Next, Burke goes to meet a chap called Alfie Best. Alfie’s done alright for himself. Raised in a Romany family, he was literally born in a caravan, and is now worth £340m thanks to his caravan park business. Burke rocks up at one of his many homes, a Surrey mansion with a fleet of luxury cars in the driveway. There’s a pink camouflage (yes, I get the contradiction) Bugatti worth £1.6m, and a jeep that’s worth over £1m.
As Best takes Burke around his incredibly opulent home, full of handmade this and bespoke that, including a sofa made by Lamborghini, for goodness’ sakes, he reveals to her that he is driven on by a terror of running out of money. I would suggest that if you don’t want to run out of money, drive a Fiat 500 and get your sofa from DFS. Anyway, it’s time for Best’s commute, so off he goes. In his helicopter.
This modern world is a confusing business for a lot of us, and never more so than when it comes to people who make a living from social media. Burke’s next stop is to something called a TikTok house, where all the (early 20-something) residents are influencers on the social media site. It’s the kind of thing that makes my kids go weak at the knees, and makes me want to put a brick through the computer screen. And if you didn’t already think these youngsters were weird, they don’t even have any teabags or milk in the house. Grrr.
Anyway, there’s still time for a chat with a money coach, and with Lady Anne Lambton, who reveals what it was like to be born into great wealth. Burke muses on why people take great pride in having working class roots, but suffer great shame if they were born into privilege. And she meets Ruth, a midwife from Wigan who won £1m on the lottery, but still carries on with her job. “People need a purpose,” Ruth reasons.
This is a fascinating look at our attitudes to wealth and privilege, how we make money, and what we do with it. But what makes this film for me – and what will doubtless ruin it for others – is the presence of the wonderful Ms Burke at its heart. She is funny, unpretentious, open-minded and tolerant, but opinionated and not afraid to say it how she sees it. It makes for a compelling, entertaining watch.
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The best… and the rest:
Saturday 3rd July
UEFA Euro 2020 Live, 7:30pm, BBC One: England take on Ukraine from Rome, in the quarter final of the tournament. The hysteria is already at fever pitch (not least in my house) and will continue to mount if England win, as indeed they should. My wife, meanwhile, will sit on the sofa, look at her phone, and tut loudly every few minutes.
William & Harry: Princes at War? 8pm, Channel 5: A feature-length documentary asking if the pair who grew up in the public eye have now grown apart, and examining the reasons behind such a divide.
Elizabeth II and the Traitor King, 9:30pm, Channel 5: Yet another royal documentary on 5, this time examining the life of Edward VIII (thank goodness, we’ve not had anything about him for several days). This programme looks at his relationship with his niece, Elizabeth II.
Sunday 4th July
Harry and William: What Went Wrong?, 9pm, ITV: Basically the same thing that Channel 5 showed last night, with different wrapping paper.
Monday 5th July
Heist: The Northern Bank Robbery, 9:30pm, BBC Two: Documentary looking at an unsolved case from 16 years ago, when two families were held hostage while two bank employees from Belfast were forced to rob £26.5m from the Northern Bank. Were the IRA involved?
Long Lost Family, 9pm, ITV: ITV’s always-moving tear-jerker, presented by Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell, returns with two people looking for their birth mothers. One of them is former Liverpool and Scotland defender Dominic Matteo.
Tuesday 6th July
UEFA Euro 2020 Live, 7pm, BBC One and ITV: If you’re sick of the football, you might want to find something else to do tonight, because it’s on both BBC One and ITV for the next two nights. Tonight’s first semi-final is between either Switzerland or Spain and Italy or Belgium. Fun, if you like that sort of thing. Which my wife definitively does not.
Agatha Christie’s England, 9pm, Channel 5: Documentary looking at the places that the writer travelled to that inspired her fictional work.
Wednesday 7th July
UEFA Euro 2020 Live, 7pm, BBC One and ITV: If England have beaten Ukraine, then they’ll play either the Czech Republic or Denmark in this semi-final. If they lost to Ukraine, I’ll be sulking, and my wife will be watching something to do with sewing, and cackling to herself.
Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, 9pm, BBC Two: Joe Swift, Rachel de Thame, Adam Frost and Arit Anderson head up coverage of the world’s largest annual flower show. Continues tomorrow.
Thursday 8th July
Diana’s Decades 1/3, 9pm, ITV: A new series about Princess Diana, which will come as a relief to those of you who haven’t seen a documentary about her for almost a full week. This one looks at how the monarchy changed her, and how she changed the monarchy.
Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted 1/6, 10pm, Channel 4: New series in which the volatile chef heads to some of the world’s more remote locations looking for culinary and cultural excitement. Tonight, he journeys to rural Peru.
Friday 9th July
Wonderful Wales with Michael Ball 1/4, 8pm, Channel 5: The delightful singer explores his own heritage as he travels round the country of his birth in this new four-part series. Expect lots of singing.
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