Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Whingeing Pom Mode

Seems like a loooong time since I last posted. The Commonwealth Games have, of course, taken over my life as I try to fill the time before I start my proper job, rather than simply Manchester's Cultural Attaché to Melbourne.

So what have I been doing, you ask?

Well...

I got to the second day of the Rugby Sevens, which was again pretty entertaining, though I've been struggling more than a little bit with the prevalent Australian attitude to the English. This was most apparent at the Rugby when the only team out of 16 nations that not only didn't get any applause, and in fact were booed when they came to warm up, was... guess who? I would previously have said there was anti-British rather than anti-English feeling here, but it's patently a cricket thing that allows what could under other circumstances be described as prejudice to prevail.

When interviewed after his Gold Medal on Channel 9, the most one-eyed and biased TV coverage you could ever have the misfortune to see [as one letter-writer in The Age sarcastically asked of Channel 9: "The other nations in the Commonwealth Games? Where the bloody hell are they?"], Wales' David Davies commented that the Australians had been gracious in their reception of him in beating the local heroes, but that he thought that they were just happy that it wasn't an Englishman. Robert Barone lookalike Nicole Livingstone responded in amusement that yes, indeed that was the case. Ha ha ha.

Yes, I probably am being too sensitive as I try to settle in here, but my second day at the rugby was again spiked with more anti-Pom vitriol from the crowd who were otherwise appreciative and supportive of other nations, of good play, and of victory. No such grace for the English, nonono, and it was actually pretty uncomfortable at times.

It reminded me of one of the darker days of football in England [in Stoke or Sheffield, say], when ignorant and prejudiced opposition fans try to provoke a response as you sit there to simply enjoy the game. As I say, it may be 95% my perception of the situation, but there's definitely an undercurrent of hatred out there, and it was little surprise to me that an England fan was both threatened with being thrown from the stand and given a beating at the hands of 2 other supporters at the Finals of the Sevens.

I found myself, backed into a corner, becoming more English, more vocal, and more one-eyed... it felt like injustice, to be truthful, and made me close to reacting in ways I didn't particularly like. There's a fine line between supporting the underdog, of humour and banter, but I felt it was repeatedly crossed, and that it's actually socially acceptable to do it... Grrr. Rant over.

Thankfully, the Athletics has been free of any sort of bias and hostility on the two days I've been to events at the MCG, and the crowds have been supportive overall, appreciative of battlers and winners, albeit a little complacent if there's not an Aussie involved in the race. But that's something that would probably happen anywhere, though I'm wondering whether Australia's fixation on sporting excellence is a good thing in the longer term. This is an area I'll no doubt return to, but there was one example that I found a little unpalatable [yes, I really am in my Whingeing Pom mode today, aren't I?] on Monday.

The Mens' Decathlon was drawing to its finish, the last event of the morning, when news came through that the 20km Mince... sorry, Walk, was coming to a close over in Docklands [i.e. well away from the Stadium] and that there was a likely "Aussie Trifecta" [yes, it's a new word to me too... it means 1,2 and 3] so they cut to the event on the big screens. They then proceeded to show and commentate on the Walk, which was by this stage a foregone conclusion anyway, whilst the Decathletes continued to plug away at their shot put event.

I felt this was really disrespectful to the athletes who were still in the stadium, not to mention pretty blooming distracting for them, not to mention the spectators who remained in the ground. It simply reiterated the fact that many Aussies only seem to be interested in sport where they win, not in sport itself. Discuss...

More Later... not moaning, hopefully.

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