I was trying hard to think of some witty and sophisticated way of articulating it, but I failed very badly. So ‘Fuck the Commonwealth Games’ is what I came up with. Apologies for the wanton vulgarity, but it really bugs me on so many levels that this joke still persists.
You know a rubbish when it’s put in the shade by the Goodwill Games. The latter was Ted Turner’s give-peace-a-chance, made-for-ratings spectacle that attempted to provide a de-politicised Olympics where everyone had a cuddle afterwards instead of boycotting and bombing each other. It peaked around the time the Cold War de-frosted and the Berlin Wall came down, and shriveled out with some Rugby League World Cup-style scheduling irregularities. But at least it was open to all, with world class competitors and world records set by global superstars like Sergei Bubka and Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
The Commonwealth Games are the limping, leprous corpse of the Empire Games, an exercise conceived as an excuse for Britain to lord its dominance over the nations it had enslaved. They finally removed the overbearing nomenclature in 1978, but the stink of colonial oppression remains, even though the Commonwealth itself has ceased to have any relevance to anyone – unless you count their weird quasi-Survivor habit of kicking out the worst of the African Dictators every few years before readmitting them after suitable shows of contrition.So we have an celebration of colonial oppression on one hand, and a sporting event which specifically excludes most of the countries which are good at sports (just four of the top twenty nations from the last Olympics are represented). Surely that’s enough reasons to be cynical? How about the cost? Estimates of the cost of the Delhi Games run anywhere up to NZD$9,000,000,000. In a nation with over 400m people living below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day. Pretty good value for money.
All this for competition which is basically an Australian benefit. Last time they didn’t top the medal table ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ was the number one single. Like that country needs another reason to be cocky.
Our team for this year’s Games – assuming they go, which remains in doubt – numbers well over 300, and that doesn’t even take into account support staff, coaches, nutritionists and all the rest of the modern sporting industrial complex. I haven’t been able to find SPARC’s expenditure, but it’s got to be north of $10m when you take into account grants leading up to it. All this for an event in which we won a total of six gold medals in last time around. Even with the world’s best barred from entry we barely scraped into the top 10 medal table, behind such sporting giants as Malaysia and Scotland.
The worst part is having to watch it run through the news cycle. Hearing ‘pundits’ discuss our chances, fawning coverage of the f***ing opening ceremony, serious-minded analysis of why we aren’t performing and celebrations of victories which are, in the scheme of things, utterly meaningless. It begins in two weeks time. Fuck it.