Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Commonwealth Cringe

No, not the Olympic games, the Commonwealth Games. My blog of 40 days ago, makes my total disinterest about the event pretty clear.

However, our local paper, the Adelaide Advertiser, has, in yesterday’s editorial column, a headline screaming: ‘On the Road to Glory at the Games.’ Whoopee bloody doo. Dear old Melvin has got himself into a lather of over-excitement at the next “…twelve days of triumph, tragedy and achievement….” Okaaaaayyyy then if that’s how you want to summarise a bit of huffing and puffing by people in lycra, then go for it.

The editor hadn’t yet finished gushing out his breathless over-enthusiasm for the event. Melbourne: the city of 3.5 million people and home of Aussie rules, the horse race that stops a nation, heaps of internationally renowned musicians, artists, fashionistas and the largest Greek population outside of Athens, is, according to the editor merry Melvin, about to experience “…the biggest cultural and sporting event ever held in Victoria.”

That’s a rather grandiose claim to make, considering that Melbourne – and the state of Victoria – is rather heavily loaded up with all sorts of cultural and sporting events. Little huff-puffs like, say, the Melbourne Cup in which every Aussie dons a hat and enters the school/office/temple sweepstakes; the Australian Open (tennis); the Boxing Day test and one-day cricket at the MCG, Aussie rules at the ‘G and the car race they stole from us here in Adelaide (thank goodness) – the Formula One Grand Prix rate as being 'up there' in terms of local, national and international interest. Anxieties over Jana Pittman’s performance due to a strained personality disorder, do not.

Having lived there for six years, I consider myself a pseudo-Melbournian who would also have had my hackles raised at the claim that the Commonwealth Games was the biggest cultural event in Victoria’s history. Errmm that's really positive of you Melvin, but most of us (with functioning brains) would consider that the trifling little crowd-pleasers like the Museum, elegant State Library, National Gallery of Victoria, many theatrical productions, the Arts Centre and the International Comedy Festival would rate a few oxygen layers higher on the cultural cut-off mark. Even more tourist-oriented facilities like the Queen Vic markets, Melbourne Cricket Ground tours, Yarra cruises, Federation Square, Richmond’s Vietnamese restaurant strip; Lygon’s Street’s Italian strip and Church Road’s shopping strips would have most of us fairly well full of friggin’ culture.

Not to mention if we summoned up the energy to drive an hour or two out of town and check out places like Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill for gold mining history; have a choof on Puffing Billy through the Dandenongs, sip a few wines from many renowned grape growing regions, ski the snowfields, greet Philip Island’s penguins or visit the Twelve Apostles before they all start falling into the water.

Merry Melvin and his journos were no doubt entertained by the Games’ opening ceremony. Love Chunks and I would rather have chewed our own legs off than sit through it (besides, 'Spicks and Specks', 'Little Britain', 'The Glass House' and Dave’n’Margaret at the Movies were playing on the ABC), so it will be interesting to see how well it rated in terms of viewer numbers. It is a dead certainty that at least one of the event’s commentators and/or today’s papers would have described it as ‘A dazzling display of Melbourne’s finest…..’ Finest what, I shudder to think.

Admittedly, my knowledge of the opening is only based on what I have read online and, from that viewpoint alone, things look pretty grim. What on earth would anyone not resident in Melbourne make of a flying tram? So that’s worth celebrating is it – an old wooden tram long since retired and filled with conductors who were controversially packaged out about ten years ago, leaving the transport system in distress and debt ever since. For the locals who understood the scene it was a slap in the face reminder to yearn for the never-to-return good old days; and for everyone else it was a sickenly visual representation of the event organiser’s recent uppers overdose.

Darling Delta Goodrem was there, presumably counted as a ‘local’ due to the fact that she lived in Port Melbourne when she was part of the cast of Neighbours for three weeks or so. Leunig apparently also got a look in with a homage to his famous duck and Mr Curly cartoon characters that ended with a real boy holding a real live duck. Well that’s just great. Now the whole bloody city looks like they’re suffering from marijuana paranoia – yes, that's right: the collective population of Victoria is seeing flying trams, small boys and ducks when all they really want is to find some decent munchies and lie down.

My TV guide shows that the games are on for at least another week which will force me either to keep the remote locked on to the ABC, or to *gasp* read or even *even louder gasp* do some decent blogging. Hopefully these efforts will spare me from hearing anyone describe an athlete as a ‘Golden Girl’, ‘Brave fighter’, or as having been through a ‘Classic Cinderella story of Rags to Riches.’ It is to be hoped also that there will be no medal tallies shoved down my throat – ‘And it’s gold, gold, GOLD for Australia' and no time dedicated to Jana Pittman’s current ‘nose hair training trauma’ or whatever it is she’s seeking attention for. Hell, shove her on one of the current Yarra Trams as a trainee conductor – she’ll be faced with fare-paying whingers all day. Might make her shut up for once.

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