IT MAY have been widely panned by the critics, but that hasn’t stopped reality television show Splash! and its Olympic star Tom Daley from inspiring a boom in diving across the Capital.
The Royal Commonwealth Pool has experienced more than a three-fold increase in participants enrolled in diving classes compared with just 12 months ago, with 500 people ranging from beginners to expert divers now using the facilities each week.
Coaches are battling to keep up with the escalating demand, with the number of weekly adult classes having swelled from two to six.
Waiting lists had to be introduced in the lead-up to Christmas for younger divers.
More than half of all tickets for the FINA World Diving Series being held at the Edinburgh venue in April have also been snapped up within just six days of going on sale.
Edinburgh Leisure diving performance coach Jen Leeming said adults aged up to 55 who had never tried diving before were signing up in droves after watching Eddie the Eagle seize the inaugural Splash! crown.
She estimated fewer than 150 divers were enrolled at this time last year, saying: “Adult lessons are going through the roof, especially thanks to Splash!. I had to put extra adult sessions on just to cater for the amount of people that want to actually try it.”
Ms Leeming said extra 1m diving boards were being installed to meet the added demand. The height of boards at the Royal Commonwealth Pool range from 1m to 10m.
She said: “In each adults group there are three or four who have been coming for years and the rest in a class of 16 are brand new.
“They’ve all got their own individual aims. They come in there with a clear idea of what they want to do – some of them may be more realistic than others, but they’ve all got the good attitude to have a go.”
Ms Leeming said the improved location had also contributed to the interest in diving. A new 25m diving pool with a moveable floor was opened at the venue in March last year as part of a major two-year £37 million refurbishment. The Edinburgh Leisure site will host the diving competition for the Commonwealth Games next year.
A Swimming UK spokeswoman said overall ticket sales for the three-day world series had so far surpassed the 2011 event, which ended up becoming a sell-out competition.
Both Sunday sessions expected to feature Olympic medallist Daley have already sold out, with about 3600 tickets overall for six sessions.
A turn-on for viewers
REALITY television diving show Splash! proved a ratings success despite scathing reviews of the programme.
The final on ITV1 drew average viewing figures of 5.33 million – a return that was enough to oust its Saturday-night rivals to become the most watched programme that night.
Former Winter Olympian Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards beat his fellow finalists to be crowned champion of the celebrity diving board in a victory watched by a peak audience of 6.5m.
The return coincided with the surprise announcement earlier this month that Splash!, hosted by Olympic star Tom Daley, had been commissioned for a second series.
Daley has admitted he was “over the moon” with the public’s response to the series.