Chinese Diving Show Marred By Death Of Star’s Assistant

Zhejiang Satellite TV’s "Celebrity Splash China" undergoes “self-reflection” after a teenager drowns as his employer trains at the other end of the pool.

BEIJING –The narrative around China’s much-watched celebrity diving shows took a tragic turn on Saturday with the death of an 18-year-old assistant to a star participant of one of the programs.

In a Saturday post on the official miniblog of Zhejiang Satellite TV’s Celebrity Splash China, producers released information about the drowning of an aide of actor Shi Xiaolong, one of the participants in the competition, during the actor’s training session on Friday.

“After the incident, the program production crew and the staff on site embarked on a swift rescue operation and brought the involved individual to the hospital, but after a four-hour attempt he could not be resuscitated and was pronounced dead,” the entry wrote. “We feel sorry and pained about this accident, and the production team and all parties involved are actively handling the aftermath.”

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According to a report carried on the web portal of the state-backed Xinhua News Agency, the victim was an 18-year-old surnamed Peng and was a member of Shi’s martial arts troupe. A spokesperson for the show declined to comment further on whether the show will be suspended. The episode originally to be broadcast on Saturday has been shelved to make way for live news bulletins about the deadly earthquakes which struck the Sichuan province.

Speaking to the entertainment channel of the portal, the show’s press representative said the teenager was with Shi at the National Aquatics Center in Beijing, and might have gone for a swim on the other end of the pool in which Shi was training.

He said the production team has reiterated their earlier warnings to the participants and their support teams that apart from the stars, the coaches and underwater camera operators, no one should go into the water.

More lifeguards will be placed on site, the rep said, and he did not comment whether Shi would continue on the show or not. Shi’s agent also declined to talk to about the incident.

Celebrity Splash China, an adaptation of the Dutch program Celebrity Splash,is one of two star diving shows which have dominated media attention for the past month, the other being Jiangsu Satellite TV’s licensed take on the German show Stars in Danger. While it has proved to be a hit with the country’s TV viewers, detractors said the show made a media circus out of the sport, with entertainment news reports focusing on the swimwear of the participants and viewers taking note of the stars’ fumbling attempts in achieving their moves. Producers have tried to deflect such criticism by recruiting former national team athletes, such as Olympic gold medalistsTian Liang and Gao Min, as trainers for the stars.