Call me a party pooper but I find the “Gold, Gold Gold”, “Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi” brand of jingoism that surrounded the recent Commonwealth Games a little hard to take. Whilst I only fleetingly tuned to the Seven Network’s multi channel coverage of the event, the constant reference to the medal tally was a real annoyance.
At the time of writing we had some 78 gold medals, easily eclipsing our nearest rival England who had some 40 plus. Yet at the Rio Olympics, Great Britain pulled in an impressive 27 Gold to Australia’s very modest total of eight. Admittedly this included the combined effort of England, Scotland and Wales but it far surpassed what was expected of the Australian team, particularly our much vaunted swimmers.
At the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India, plagued by infrastructure delays and massive cost blow outs, the whole relevance of the post colonial sporting celebration came into question. Glasgow in 2014 did much to restore whatever significance there originally was and the Gold Coast was certainly an organisational triumph. The city has yet to tally up the real economic cost of the games and it remains to be seen whether they will experience the kind of post OIympics doldrums that beset Sydney in 2000.
In many ways the games are an exercise in nostalgia, harking back to the days when much of the world atlas was covered in the red of the British Empire. When the Commonwealth Of Nations was formed in 1931, it sought to wipe away the sins of imperialist Britain and join fifty three member states in the harmony of what was for many their new found independence. The British Empire Games morphed into the Commonwealth Games and have since been promoted as a unifying force amongst the member countries.
The Queen is still recognised as the symbolic head of the Commonwealth and for the Gold Coast games we were treated to a royal visit by those crusty old adulterers Charles and Camilla. The sight of many Australians fawning over these two old boilers was enough to make any republican dry heave. When Charles stayed on solo for a jaunt through the Northern Territory many on the republican side wished for one of those quirky NT Times headlines – CROC ENJOYS ROYAL BANQUET, as our future monarch was consumed by a man-eater.
Clearly the number of gold medals we swagged is an embarrassment, and to be fair to the other Commonwealth countries we need an even playing field if the games are to continue in the true sporting tradition. Let’s bring back the kind of sports that depend on brute strength rather than the scientific expertise of the Australian Institute Of Sport. ‘Tug Of War’ was once an Olympic Sport and it could easily be restated at the next Commonwealth Games. Let’s see how those Aussie wimps go against a team of man mountains from Tonga!
Snake charming, elephant wrangling, tree climbing and croc wrestling could also be introduced to replace such excruciating sports as beach volley ball and lawn bowls. Half the nations competing don’t even have Olympic size swimming pools so all water sports could be eliminated. Each of the 70 odd national teams competing could nominate a unique sport of their own and there would be bonus gold awarded to any team defecting as refugees. Let’s make the crew from Cameroon feel right at home!