An Olympic medal to the people who made 'Dive'
Sport and drama have never struck me as the most obvious bedfellows. For every success like "Chariots of Fire" there are multiple failures with dippy storylines and implausible action sequences - and most of the time live sport is drama enough in itself. The fictionalised version is second best.
There's also curiously little drama where sport is a key part of the story, despite its importance to so many people's lives, and I suspect that's partly because too much of the sport and arts worlds don't understand each other. There are exceptions, but one of the challenges around 2012 as a year is that mixing culture and sport can be an oil-and-water job.
So an Olympic medal to the people who made "Dive", which is showing on BBC Two this Thursday and Friday and then available on the iPlayer. You can read more about it here and read Aisling Loftus's blog on lead role in Dive here - but it's a simple story.
A teenage girl called Lindsey is training with the hope of being part of the GB diving team for London 2012. But she gets pregnant, and the film is about the way she and her boyfriend try to sort out their lives.
I've just been watching a preview, and it's terrific: powerfully acted and great to look at, as you'd expect from someone with the track record of Dominic Savage.
Aisling Loftus stars as Lindsey in Dive
It is, of course, about far more than sport. Apart from the big themes around sex and pregnancy and coping with that when you're young, there's a vivid sense of what it's like growing up in a small town with the pull of an outside world - though Lindsey's boyfriend isn't exactly encouraging when he finds out she's aiming for the London Games. I'll delete the expletives, but he tells her that must be why she's so miserable and asks of the Olympics "how s*** is that?" (Warning: your granny may not like the grittier sequences.)
And yet there's a definite sense here of how sport makes a difference, and I was interested to read the director's take:
"Early mornings and the individuality of diving, it's the most obvious and perfect individual sport. The time it takes, and dedication to get one dive right and yet the margin of error is so slight. It's also the idea that the dive is like life, taking a leap of faith. The courage involved. Showing the difference between those that will take a chance in life, and those that won't. The perfect dive, is like getting life perfect; really hard, almost impossible. It can also resemble falling. That's easier to do!"
Which is all true, and from where I sit watching the preparations for 2012 it genuinely adds to the way we think about our competitors with their multiplicity of backgrounds and hundreds of different stories. This is, if you like, a fictional counterpart to the Olympic Dreams series that's following the real life stories - and it's surprisingly easy to imagine Lindsey in either programme.
Now, I should add a couple of notes. First that I'm not an expert in diving - so I'll leave it to those who are to judge the authenticity of what they see in "Dive" around training and technique. And second - this is not a brazen bit of promoting the wares of the London 2012 project team. We work mainly on the core sport, news and culture initiatives for 2012 - and two years out these films are business-as-usual commissions for BBC Two and BBC Drama with production by ITV Studios.
But what they do show is the way that London 2012 can be a theme for drama and the arts in general - in a way that doesn't force the audience into categories of "sports lover" or "sport-avoiding drama fan". This is simply a human story which reflects the biggest event this country will stage, and it gives hope that sport and drama might produce some attractive offspring after all.
Dive starts on Thursday 8 July at 2100 BST, concludes the following day at the same time and is available afterwards on iPlayer.