Let the Games Continue


It was either Samuel Johnson or Peter Craven who once said, ‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of Life.’ This Sentiment has often been extended to refer to urban centres in general (i.e. ‘When a man is tired of City life, he is tired of life’), and I’ve even heard it used in relation to Melbourne. Then again, there are sundry jackanapes who have bruited it about that Melbourne is an exception to this Rule, and that if a man is tired of life there, then it’s because he’s a Geelong supporter. This is the purest slander.

Recently, the good Doctor (Arbuthnot) and I were just two of the many thousands of dead people invited to spectate at the opening ceremony of the Empire Games held in Melbourne. (For those of you who missed them, they ran from 15 to 26 March.)

It’s not as if there’s nothing to do here in Apollo Bay and its bucolic environs, in Autumn what with the Bellarine Agricultural Show at Portarlington and the Barwon Heads Festival of the Sea … and don’t get me started on the delights of Colac in March!

But, true to our Intrepid natures, the Doctor and I decided to down secateurs, frock up, jump into the Saab convertible and roar down the Great Ocean Road to that Great Wen at Yarra-mouth. And what a Surprise Packet Melbourne turned out to be!

Celebrities? Apart from the myriad dead people present, there were quite a few live dignitaries too, such as Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Eddie Maguire, the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, and the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Ron Walker.

That nice boy Steve (Habibi) Bracks spoke eloquently, as he always does pointing out that ‘Melbourne’s Channel Nine Empire Games were not to be compared to Sydney’s 2000 Olympics,’ and that there was no reason ‘for Melbourne and Sydney to compete,’ that there was absolutely and definitely ‘no Rivalry between the two cities,’ that ‘Melbourne was not, after all, Sydney,’ and that he (Bracks) hadn’t even thought of Sydney ‘for days.’ One can see why he is so successful the lad is truly the Cicero of the South.

The opening ceremony for the Empire Games included a rather splendid Knees-up, featuring the latest model ‘Pegasus’ class trams, a boy with a Duck, and some confused koalas. Then a large number of people ran around in circles, threw things, and splashed about in Pools for a fortnight, before disappearing into the night and surfacing in Sydney some days later and asking for asylum (from Melbourne, perhaps? It was a little unclear maybe they just wanted to meet some of the friendly people from the Department of Immigration).

The Doctor and I sojourned in a delightful B-and-B in the Soviet Socialist Republic of North Fitzroy and eschewed the sweatier sporting activities, preferring the more Poetic and psychologically Brutal sport of lawn bowls. I, of course, had a soft spot for the Manx team but could not begrudge the Australian competitors their obvious delight in crushing anyone and anything that stood in the way of their total domination of the world of lawn bowls.

In the end, the overall medal tally was largely inevitable:

                                                        Gold                 Silver               Bronze

Australia                       2643               63,428           81,654

Isle of Man                 0                             0                               1

Jersey                               0                               0                             1

Diego Garcia         0                               0                              0

Ascension Is         (disqualified)

I am reliably informed that this is a new record of some sort for Australia (of course), and that the result Vindicates the gargantuan amounts of Money that rain down every year upon Sports of All Sorts in this wide brown land (like Zeus upon Danae).

When the bittersweet moment came for the Doctor and I to leave the rollicking, all-day fiesta that is Melbourne, we were sad to depart, but also strangely invigorated at the prospect of the Lara Heritage Festival and a celebratory home-made gelato at The Ice Cream Tub in Apollo Bay.

Life’s like that, sometimes. Even when you’re dead.

About the Author
Sir Isaac Bickerstaff (deceased) died of the quinsy on 2 January 1711, but he refused to let that slow him down. He recently moved to Apollo Bay in Victoria because, ‘it’s a good place to be dead.’ He is New Matilda’s Correspondent On the Other Side and has threatened to channel through to us irregularly, when the planets prove propitious

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.