Colonial Era Evocation Cancelled Melbourne Commonwealth Games
Melbourne’s abrupt cancellation of the Commonwealth Games signalled the advent in the English-speaking realm of an instant official end to a mass cultural convocation, in this instance a sporting one.
The cancellation was itself emblematic of the Victoria government. The Australian politico media sphere is always wrong footed by the way the state government emerges unscathed from its bad news.
Its formula is to simply get it out of the way as quickly as it can.
Lesser governments would have given the issue a slow death with standard “reviews” and “interventions” with much use of the word “resilience.” The Victoria state government knows that bad news feeds on time and talk. So compress the time and thus the talk.
No attenuated “conversations” nourishing the news cycles from this cunningly purposeful administration.
Costs were said to have tripled. Not so well known is that anticipated revenues had shrunk dangerously, noticeably the international broadcasting income.
Originally described as the Empire Games the event was formulated as a device to cement together the member nations in what at the time was still the world’s largest ever empire.
Therefore the acceleration of the now fevered Australian focus on colonialism and its harmful effects on first nationers would have also entered the Melbourne equation.
What a difference a year makes. Especially to the Royal Family, the traditional centrepiece of the Games. What sort of a reception would the royals have received at the now-abandoned Melbourne games? The Queen presided at the 2006 Melbourne games.
Exactly what parliament among Australia’s proliferating parliaments would have been designated as the official Games parliament?
The games and their value has been approached in recent years with caution. An ambivalence is the value of the games in which losses incurred are said to be outweighed by the aggregate revenue to the host of the resulting visitor-tourist spending.
Many now call this cost effectiveness into question because it is known that certain tourists will deliberately avoid a games venue because of the inconvenience and because they know that prices have gone up.
All this does not explain why the Melbourne Games were cancelled so instantly and so decisively.
What happened was that the more that the politicians “evaluated” the games, the more they saw contrived trouble on the cultural front with the games being viewed as the provocation.
Australia was always the home-away-from-home for the Commonwealth Games. It is the most successful competing nation with the most medals in the history of the event.
There was Sydney in 1938 which was the first to be staged in the southern hemisphere, Perth (1962), Brisbane (1982), Melbourne (2006) and the Gold Coast (2018).
The Lucky Country with its in-depth self-sufficient economy knew that it could shoulder the inevitable contingency costs of any magnitude in staging these extravaganzas because of the value in presenting its preferred image of fresh-faced unified candour blended with the energy of limitless possibilities.
The accountants of these games in more recent years regardless of venue have been shunted into the background.
Myths were necessary, one being that the cost of the special accommodation for the athletes would be offset because this accommodation would somehow be transformed into sought-after permanent housing.
The Victoria state government meanwhile would not have broken ranks with Canberra on anything so important. The Federal and state governments colluded because they both saw that on the political balance sheet the Games now presented a bigger debit than a credit.
Outside the world of competitive sport nobody is shedding too many tears.
It is hard not to hear from the Palace a profound sigh of relief.
It has learned to be wary about overt displays conjuring up images of the imperial era.
The first politician to publicly challenge the value of the Commonwealth Games was New Zealand MP Georgina Beyer (pictured) who quickly eliminated the event from New Zealand consideration on the simple basis that the true costs could not be estimated, that they would spiral, and thus have to be met from other budgets, notably the social welfare funds.
The Member of Parliament would also have perceived the shift in groundswell in which the games magnetism was migrating to showcasing differences rather than disguising them in choreographed exuberance.
Ms Beyer’s transition from male to female and the resulting attention frequently obscured her ability to grasp the reality of any issue at all - a talent demonstrated initially during her years in local government.
In the end the abrupt cancellation of the Melbourne games was because the games were on track to becoming a shop window for dissonance instead of cohesion. Wounds were going to be displayed rather than concealed. Salt in the form of undiluted media attention was ready to be poured on them.
After the no-arguments about face by Melbourne and by implication Canberra too the “friendly” Games have entered a dismayingly unfriendly era and ushered into it by one of its loyalists.