Monday, March 20, 2006

Higher, faster, greedier

Mbula mbula - and pass the kava! Despite what you may see in the meeja, the Commonwealth Games is not just about Aussie athletes crushing poor third-world nations into the dust in the field of competition; it's also about culture. And on Monday night the Fijians took the stage at Federation Square to teach us some of theirs.

While the event was advertised as free dancing lessons, only a select few were invited on stage to sway along with the grass skirted blokes to the music of Black Rose.

We particularly enjoyed the enthusiastic dancing of a group of expats who had maybe indulged in a little kava - it's a great tradition! - to warm themselves up on an early Melbourne autumn evening.

These Games are turning, unsurprisingly, into a triumphal parade for the home team. The gold standard is "Gold, Gold, Gold", so much so that the men's swimmers are copping heat from the press for "underperforming" - all those Silver medals are just not good enough. So spare a thought for our favourite sports correspondent, Stephen Phiri, from Lusaka's Daily Mail. The Zambian reporter was interviewed in Sunday's Age putting some perspective on events.

Asked his impressions of Melbourne, he replied: "It is not busy and it is peaceful. I went for a beautiful walk and no-one attacked me, unlike in Lusaka".

The Federal Government is spending $50 million on the opening and closing ceremonies alone - and that's even with volunteers doing much of the work. The Games in total will cost over $1 billion. The organising committee has assuaged its conscience by donating the grand sum of $10,000 to aid programs in Commonwealth countries.

But one of the smarter things organisers have done is allocate each team a local council to make them feel at home. Sierra Leone arrived without a team uniform and the community in the City of Whitehorse responded with uniforms and equipment. The Sierra Leonians have a team of 22, and a budget of $0. Their star cyclist, Mohammed Sesay, has been working since he was 10 to eke out a living after his father died. And here he is, competing in a donated uniform against Australia's athletes, who get $30 million a year from the taxpayer.

Not exactly a fair competition. Our exporters demand "a level playing field" in the world of trade. In sport, the imperative is Gold - at any cost.

The Comm Games - a place where culture and politics should mix.

It was an informal gatherine among friends at Fed Square. The band plonked themselves down, dragged up a few people from the audience, and started to play.

An enthusiastic crowd!

Pat and Eleri soak up the atmosphere.

Expat Fijians show some white folks how to groove.

The blogger had a lovely time!


Anonymous william dutton said...

interesting propective, i like it, keep going on this because it brings some fresh air from all the doom and gloom we have been getting about the "cyclone"

9:14 pm  
Blogger Hugo said...

Thanks William! But at the same time it sure is disappointing about all those banana farmers, and the insurance companies who wouldn't cover them. Bastards.

10:54 pm  
Blogger Rebekka said...

Yes, and our organic fruit man at the market told me (as I purchased $2.50kg bananas for Hugo's breakfast) that they are going to cost twice as much next week! The shock! The horror!

10:57 pm  
Blogger VMeister said...

I sang a couple of numbers with Black Rose in Fiji last year - they absolutely rock! I bet it was a great gig
the VMeister

7:37 pm  
Blogger Hugo said...

Yeah, the lead singer's got a bigger personality than Jagger - but personally I saw a singer at last year's press gallery ball who would fit in brilliantly with the kava-driven rhythms of Black Rose. Hurry up and write something in the vblog (great name)so we can read it!

4:05 pm  

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