Sport Relief 2016: The stars who have ran, swam and baked their way into our hearts

Is that Ed Balls on a fork? Perhaps

Lucy Brogden
29th February 2016
Ed Balls on a fork? | Collage: Lewis Bedford

Sports Relief isn’t just about (Davina) McCall’ing up and donating your Walliams-earned cash. You really have to respect the celebrities as it Izz-hard to come close to their (Paul) Hollywood status. Don’t Mary Berry your head in the sand, tune in and get (Ed) Balls deep in some charity fun. How much (Sam) Cam’ they raise this year?

Williams gets wet for charity

Sport Relief: combining sport and entertainment to raise money for both the UK and some of the world’s poorest countries. Or, as we’ve come to know it, celebrities pushing themselves past breaking point in a desperate bid for donations.

Over the years there’s been many sport relief challenges: Eddie Izzard ran 43 marathons in 51 days, Helen Skelton kayaked 2,010 miles of the Amazon, Davina McCall swam, cycled and ran 500 miles in a week.

Yet, for me, all of these challenges pale in comparison to David Walliams’ Big Swim. Walliams is no stranger to Sport Relief challenges; he raised £1 million when he swam the channel in 2006, he swam the Strait of Gibraltar in 2008, and was part of the celebrity team that cycled 1,000 miles across the UK in 2010.

Those challenges, although difficult, did nothing to prepare Walliams for his 2011 challenge. Big seems a somewhat inapt adjective to describe his simply astonishing feat: swimming the Thames. Just how far is that? 140 miles. He swam 140 miles in open water in just eight days! That’s the equivalent of swimming the channel eight times, something even the most competent open water swimmer would dread.

The sheer physical demands of such a challenge are inconceivable- Walliams was estimated to have burned over 65,000 calories during his challenge. Sure, Olympic distance swimmers may swim such distances on a daily basis, but not in open water where they have to contend with currents, swans, bad weather, debris, and poor visibility. He succumbed to the early stages of hypothermia on day one because the water was two degrees colder than the sea, and had to wear a wetsuit for the duration of the challenge, which chafed so badly he bled.

Heavy rainfall the week before his swim led to 300 tonnes of raw sewerage being dumped into the river and experts advising him to abandon his challenge for fear of his wellbeing. He succumbed to a stomach bug on day three, which left him unable to keep down anything more than toast and glucose tablets, tore a spinal disc, which left him needing physio and eventual surgery months after the challenge, yet still continued. And he rescued an over-eager dog from drowning.

His efforts raised £2 million pounds for sport relief, and boy, did he earn every one of those donations. David Walliams, we salute you.

Lucy 'Broggo' Brogden

Thanks Sainsbury's, every little helps

Generally sports relief gives a load of celebrities a chance to fund raise by doing something that they would have done anyway. The real heroes aren’t the people who are doing something for a bit of attention, but those honest members of the public that are actively getting out there and doing something.

I’m sure it’s great for Jermaine Jenas to not only get his mug on my TV when the football’s on, but now also to appear in a glorified kitchen with Mary Berry and Louise Redknapp. Anyone who loses to Ginger Spice in a baking competition does not deserve to be there. I can’t even imagine what Jacqui Oatley was thinking when she was paired with him for Pointless. Hopefully he’ll be sticking to football in the near future.

I do however have plenty of time for those celebrities that do something exceptional in the name of Sports Relief. Eddie Izzard is a truly inspirational man. The guy ran seven weeks’ worth of back-to-back marathons (43 marathons in 51 days – more than 1,100 miles) in 2009 with no more than 5 weeks training. Not only did he raise a hell load of money, but he also proved that genuinely anyone can do something that impressive. He’s now doing 27 more marathons this year to raise even more money. What a guy.

Likewise David Walliams’ previous exploits, and Greg James’ triathlon this year are both impressive. But why call it a ‘Gregathon’? It just cheapens what he’s doing. Come on, guys. Sort it out.

What I’d like to see this year is a bigger focus on what the public are doing. Every year they have little snippets about what Sainsbury’s or Boots are doing this year. Occasionally they’ll have a group of Scouts with an oversized cheque that some poor 10-year-old has to carry.

Personally I want more features and coverage of the grassroots activities. That’s what’s going to inspire people to get involved. People need to know that they don’t have to be celebrities to raise money.

Hopefully we’ll see some big efforts here in Newcastle this year as well. Each time Sports Relief comes around there seems to be more and more going on, and I hope that continues.

No doubt there’ll be some local sporting events you can attend. I know full well that the lads at Berocca Juniors FC have got something in the pipeline, and likely as not most sports teams from around the uni will as well so keep on the lookout.

James 'Sprosdog' Sproston 

Ed’s Sugar Coated Balls

I was a firm believer that The Great British Bake Off was the epitome of television, and nothing would ever surpass it. Then, some genius somewhere at the BBC decided to combine Mary Berry, Paul ‘The Silver Fox’ Hollywood and charity together to create The Great Sport Relief Bake Off, throwing political heavyweights Sam-Cam and Ed Balls into the same hyper-tent as Chris Kamara and David James.

The show might not be quite as awe inspiring as climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, but the mental stress on the face of Victoria Coren when her cake tasted saltier than the North Sea shows what celebrities these days are willing to put themselves through.

The will-they-won’t-they conundrum surrounding the potential rise of a good puffy canapé leaves viewers on the edge of their seats, before rolling off them laughing when David James’ ‘bite size’ pastry resembled a recently felled tree.

Not only does The Great Sport Relief Bake Off provide sufficient hilarity, but it also raises an incredible amount of money for charity.

For me, the Bake Off can provide so many more important services to our nation, such as the General Election, choosing the next England football manager or deciding Scottish Independence.

Who doesn’t want to see David Cameron fighting for his Downing Street residence by attempting to bake a better apple strudel than Jeremy Corbyn? Millions would tune in to see whether Corbyn would do up his apron properly and sing the Bake Off national anthem. As for Scottish Independence, pit Alex Salmond against Alistair Darling in a deep fried Mars bar contest.

I digress, the work that Sport Relief does for our country and others is truly exceptional, and the fact the Bake Off manages to combine it with television gold only enhances its reputation.

Since 2002, Sport Relief has raised over £262 million for Comic Relief, and the Bake Off has encouraged thousands of Brits to start up cake sales and charity events to contribute towards that total.

Alex 'Hendo' Hendley

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