There was much chest thumping and media hoo-ha last week when it was announced Australia would host the men’s Rugby World Cup in 2027 and the women’s version in 2029. With the Commonwealth Games heading to Victoria in 2026 and the Olympics in Brisbane in 2032, we are plunging into a decade of major sporting events. Not surprisingly Scott Morrison has seized on the announcements as part of his election pitch, to trumpet Australia as a major event destination.
Nobody can deny that but as Julius Sumner Miller regularly questioned, “why is it so?” When Australia was awarded the 2000 Olympics, amongst hot global competition, the country went delirious. Remember “the winner is Sideney”. On the other hand the reaction to Brisbane securing the 2032 Olympics was decidedly luke warm with virtually no other countries making a serious bid.
Given the history of the Olympics in the last 30 years it’s not surprising that Brisbane faced little opposition. Whilst the 2004 Games in Greece did not entirely bankrupt the country they certainly contributed to its massive debt in the years that followed. Similarly the 2016 event in Brazil left the country with a huge deficit following a US$2 billion shortfall in revenue. Much was said about the legacy of the Sydney Olympics, like attracting foreign tourists and stimulating the economy. Real estate prices rocketed soon after and we were left with an 80,000 seat stadium that only last year the State Government was ready to demolish.
In the post-COVID world, and with the lessons of the Tokyo Olympics, countries worldwide are now highly cautious when it comes to hosting major and highly costly sporting events. The ever changing political climate, like the current turmoil in Europe, adds to the uncertainty. Not so in Australia it seems, where the door is wide open and the coffers overflowing to host any major international kneesup that is thrown our way.
It seems only a matter of time before we accommodate the World Soccer Cup and with enough artificial snow, Thredbo could even be looking at the Winter Olympics. We have one foot in the door at Eurovision and should we ever win the supreme contest, Sydney and Melbourne will go to war to secure the circus, each building their own enormous LED lit arena of kitsch.
Nothing diverts public attention from the real problems in society, like health and housing, than a big sporting event or festival like Sydney’s own Vivid. You may be paying outrageous rent and waiting six months for a hip replacement but here’s a ticket to see the Wallabies thrash Tonga at the Rugby World Cup – bound to make you feel good! Karl Marx is paraphrased as saying, “Religion is the opiate of the masses” but were he alive today, he would quickly change that to ‘sport’.
And is that such a bad thing at a time when the price of a bag of groceries is soaring with inflation? More diversion please, and with the floodgates open it’s time for Australia to plunder the world stage and appropriate as many events as we can. Why should Gloucester in England have a monopoly on cheese rolling and surely we have even steeper hills in Australia to create our own version. Let’s roll a 44 gallon drum down the side of Mount Kosciuszko and whoever manages to chase it and catch it gets to fill it up with Bundy Rum. The Brits can keep their mouldy cheese.
We want it all, whether it’s the World Gurning Championships (look it up on Google), Sumo wrestling in every RSL Club, marathon bed racing from Newcastle to Sydney, elephant polo, extreme ironing on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, wife carrying and husband dumping, bog snorkelling and the Dakar Rally.
When it comes to the international sporting events, the world is currently our oyster and you can look forward to the World Shucking Masters, here anytime soon!