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Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

What a helluva (hmm!) fuss Rugby player Israel (perfect first name) Folau stirred up with his damnation by Instagram of sinners to hell! It’s amazing how punters take this medieval idea seriously. Okay, I get that some gay people (no initials here) are unhappy about it, but only if they accept this ridiculous clap-trap.

But what about the other sinners mentioned? This caper needs auditing, at least apropos of Orstralia. At the top of his list were Drunks. Is that permanently inebriated folk, or those of us who have occasionally over-tippled? If the former then most people are unaffected, but otherwise it covers 90+% of Australians.

Homosexuals were apparently the most offended by the damnation call-out. But they’ve had plenty of coverage, so let’s look at the other categories.

Thirdly, Adulterers, which means sex outside marriage. Don’t worry, the rest of you come up later. Surveys show that 10% of spouses admit to cheating, which based on latest population estimates amounts to 915,000 people (cheating rate for men is 12% and women 7%). That’s a shite load of adulterers.

Liars is massive. Is that professional liars like politicians, or even us occasional liars (white lies only of course)? Potentially that covers 100% of Australians! And hey, what about Israel himself – he promised not to bring the game of rugby into disrepute, and then he takes Rugby Australia to court. That was a lie.

Okay, here’s a biggie: Fornicators.  Don’t reach for the dictionary – it means sex outside marriage. So the rest of you having sex are fornicators. I’m pretty sure the bible did not recognise defacto marriage, so you lot are included too. I dunno how to estimate the total number of fornicators in Oz but it’s way huge.

Full time Thieves is probably not a huge number, but if you nicked some flowers from a neighbouring park you could be a borderline sinner. Let’s just say several hundred thousand thieves in Australia to cover all options.

Then my personal favourite: Atheists. By definition we should be the least concerned with Folau’s folly of phantasmagorical punishment. And we make up 10% of the Australian population, that is 2,473,000 clear thinkers. So Israel: sticks and stones….

Last but definitely not least come Idolaters, which is where it gets interesting. Despite my atheist theology, I’ve done plenty of church tourism, particularly in Europe where they built some great temples to idolatry. Yep, lots of Virgin Mary statues, Jesus statues, not to mention assorted saints, religious relics, etc. Catholics are idolaters – they constitute 22.6% of the Australian population, and if we add say half of the 13.3% Anglicans, it makes a grand total of 7,246,000 Australian idolators, ignoring Buddhists or other minority groups.

When you crunch all those sinner group numbers, you have roughly 90-100% of the Australian population going off to Hell sooner or later. I hope the Devil has enough accommodation for his Australian congregation, so to speak, preferably with river views (no oceans in hell?) and Tuesday night pasta specials at the local club. To give us all a warm welcome! 

And come to think of it, is that why we’re Down Under? Thanks Israel for bringing it to our attention. The Devil’s in the detail.

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The irony of Sydney’s richest suburbs pumping untreated sewage into the Pacific Ocean today is rich indeed! Yup, it’s true: three ‘outfalls’ are still dropping raw sewage from the cliffs behind Vaucluse and Diamond Bay into the ocean near South Head. The arse end of ex PM Turnbull’s Federal seat of Wentworth?

The resulting visible plumes of ‘brown fuzz’ on the surface are a cocktail of algae, high bacteria count, colonies of stinging jellyfish known as hydroids, and represent a high environmental risk. The ocean floor there is piling up with toilet paper, sanitary products, wet wipes and plastics.

Twice I have swum through this area in the Bondi to Watsons Bay ocean swim. Doubly dumb, heroic and also in a duo each time to share the 10kms course. Maybe my immunity came from decades of surf swimming in the dodgy water of eastern Sydney beaches, before the 1990-92 Deep Ocean Outfalls started carrying primary-treated sewage about 3 kms out on the ocean floor (where it’s feasted on by marine life). In those not-so-good old days, we sometimes swam in dun-coloured water with a smattering of unsanitary floaty objects.

But, there is good news on the horizon. The NSW government is finally dealing with these ‘legacy’ ocean sewer pipes from 1916,1932 & 1936. Our Gladys is right on to it, only twenty years after it was first raised, and has announced a $86m project to re-direct the sewage to the Bondi Waste Water Treatment Plant by 2020. Those feasting sewer fish are in for some upper-class treats!

sewage signpoh ocean swim

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Peter Carey conjures up a racy ethos and mood in early 1950s suburban Melbourne in his recent novel ‘A Long Way From Home’, featuring his birth-place Bacchus Marsh, and a car rally that captivated the nation. 

Reminiscent of ‘Oscar and Lucinda’, Carey charges full speed into this story, with characters, ideas and narratives bouncing off each other, until it settles down to a manageable rhythm. Probably an apt metaphor as the real hero of the story is the amazing Redex Round Australia Reliability Trial of 1954 (second of three). 

Among the larger-than-life central characters he even manages to invent a blond, German background, part aboriginal man, and reflects on our inglorious 20th century indigenous history.

Regular KC readers might recall my father John (Jack) in Berlin 36 Redux. Well, he’s also in the background of this story, as he competed in this 15,400 kms trial, driving a Chevrolet (car 36) for Christey’s Motor Auctions. Only 120 out of 263 entrants managed to finish the punishing event, with points lost for late arrivals and replaced parts. Dad’s car finished 97th.

His mate, legendary Jack ‘Gelignite’ Murray won in a Ford V8, incredibly with no points lost, and Carey draws on his character. My childhood memories include calling in to Murray’s Bondi garage with my father for a chin wag with Jack later on.

If you want to know more about him, get ‘Gelignite Jack Murray, An Aussie Larrikin Legend’ by his son Phil Murray – it’s not literature, but lots of photos and cars, and O’Hara too.

The Christey’s crew learned a few tricks, as in 1955 they entered the Trial again, with a longer 16,900 kms route round the country: their Ford Customline (car 76) came a very creditable 20th out of 54 finishers and 276 starters! 

I reckon Carey captures the hardships of the Trial and devil-may-care attitude of the self-reliant bunch of individuals who threw themselves into this ‘adventure of a lifetime’ – overall, a rollicking good read, as the cliche goes. Highly recommended.

1954 redex 1

1954 redex 2

1954 redex 3

 

 

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So, the ‘iconic’ (obligatory adjective) Sydney Opera House is our biggest billboard, so sayeth PM Scott Morrison aka ScoMo, endorsing NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s approval of advertising on the famous roof sails of this UNESCO Heritage-listed building, to promote a horse-racing event. 

It’s a quintessential Sydney story, where Shock Jock Supremo Jones pulls the strings on Our Gladys, and we then learn that his business partners have nags running in the race – a redolent whiff of his ‘cash for comment’ era. 

I’m not sure that’s what UNESCO had in mind, but maybe it’s the epitome of OzCulture for crass gambling promotion to prevail over aesthetic considerations in a display of rampant philistinism (a word to put back into common usage). To cap it off, ingenuous ScoMo doesn’t get what all the fuss is about. I believe him.

The Pentecostal PM evinces a daggy soccer dad image, and as self-styled marketing guru who in a previous gig at the Australian Tourist Commission oversaw the cringeworthy ‘where the bloody hell are you’ advertising campaign, he has a track record as Chief Philistine. And is Our Glad channelling Edna Everage?

The horse racing event is called The Everest, so how the image of that word on the Opera House will promote tourism here is a mystery only explained by bluster and bullshit. And make no mistake, the Sport of Kings is for gambling, and certainly not for the benefit of exercising the poor nags and jockeys.

Cultural cringe at being Australian is the only response to this travesty, at least amongst us elitists, but it’s not a comfortable feeling. Optimists thought we had left fundamental philistinism behind us in the maligned 1950s, but it’s in our DNA!

ducks in a row

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Recently while on assignment in Berlin your KC correspondent tip-toed in his father’s footsteps at Olympia-Stadion, the site of Hitler’s Olympic Games in 1936, which also took place in the first fortnight of August.

John O’Hara was one of three top wrestlers (freestyle) in the thirty-three member Australian team. Their medal hopes were high: light-heavyweight Eddie Scarf had won bronze in 1932 at Los Angeles and lightweight Dick Garrard would go on to win a silver medal in 1948 in London.

Cruelly their chances were spoiled by different European judging rules, resulting in disputed decisions, threats of boycott by other non-European teams and official protests. Nevertheless adverse decisions held and none of the Aussies progressed to the finals. My father’s loss in his third match, to the eventual silver medal winner in the welterweight division, was however considered a fair result.

Since 1936 the Olympic stadium has been substantially upgraded and de-Nazified with removal of offending symbols, but it retains the original stone construction – and is now home to Berlin soccer club Hertha BSC. Standing in his special box we try to imagine the atmosphere of 110,000 spectators saluting Hitler. The Australian team did not give the Nazi salute and were booed by some of that crowd.

The wrestling and boxing were held in the Deutschland Hall, a kilometre or so away. Unfortunately the building was demolished and is now the sight of a fun fair, so no chance of a pilgrimage to the venue of the wrestling contests.

The Australians were billeted in the Olympic village 14 kilometres away. It reverted to the Wehrmacht (German army) after the Games, and then to the Russians after WWII. Their troops left in 1992 and the village was then abandoned and fell into disrepair. I didn’t try to visit it but discovered this Berlin insider website with its story and a news item.

To celebrate our Olympic pilgrimage the KC team did however swim our laps in the rundown original pool, which remains unchanged, with its diving tower and green tiles. Australia did not send swimmers in 1936, as money was tight!

Recommended reading: Dangerous Games: Australia at the 1936 Nazi Olympics” by Larry Writer.

Photo hints: JOH is playfully fitted with the Olympic steward uniform cap in the press cutting – spot him in other photos. In the shot of eight casual training mates, Garrard is 2L and Scarf 4R.

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An Australian batsman is struck by a ball at the base of the skull and dies after a cricket test match. Followed by an amazing outpouring of grief, eulogies, hero worship and memorials of all sorts across the country. Way out of proportion. The incident is described as a ‘freak accident’. Why it was freakish is puzzling. It’s actually freakish that more such accidents don’t occur.

The huge elephant in the cricket change rooms and corridors of power is the modern version of ‘bodyline’, a term used during the 1932-33 test series against England. English fast bowler Harold Larwood targeted Australian batsmen instead of the wicket, which was considered shockingly ungentlemanly, dangerous and unfair play. Just not cricket! These days it’s normal bowling practice for all teams.

In the wake, so to speak, of the recent death, the cricket commentariat were resolutely silent about a glaring, fundamental problem at the heart of the game. Along with administrators and players themselves, an omertà rules: not a word about the danger of hurling a hard ball at speeds up to 160 kph directly at another human being, including his head. The only rule is to make it bounce first and try to ensure he’s in front of the wicket. It’s tantamount to aggravated assault, or worse. The wearing of helmets and other protection, including the ‘box’, for sensitive body parts only underscores the problem. The rules of the sacrosanct game should change, but mentioning it would be apostasy of the highest order.

Add so-called sledging, that is verbally insulting your opponents, preferably with racist taunts, and you have an unsavoury cocktail of super aggressive, negative role model behaviour. The big-money professional sports have refined their games for profit and entertainment so that only vague vestiges of sportsmanship remain. An obsolete, old-fashioned idea that can also be interred.

Unknown

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The world’s highest mountain, Everest, also known as Sagarmatha or Qomolangma (‘Holy Mother’), is the ultimate bucket-list item for super egos. Last week over two hundred climbers tried for the summit during good weather.

Holy Mother was more defiled than usual by the tragedy unfolding on her flanks on the last stretch below the summit at 8000+m altitude. The Death Zone lived up to its reputation, with four climbers dying there in the same 36 hour period.

The Australian report makes chilling (no pun intended) reading. The final climb route is narrow with room for only one fixed rope, so climbers have to literally climb over each other if someone stops, dead or otherwise. Britisher Leanna Shuttleworth, 19 years old, and her father Mark did just that.

The first body they met was Shriya Shah-Klorfine, a Nepalese-Canadian woman who had died the previous day. They unclipped themselves off the rope to go past her, and then clipped back on to continue. Shuttleworth reports on their next encounter: “There was another man who was almost dead; he was sitting attached to an anchor…and I just thought it was a dead body rocking in the wind, but as we passed he raised his arm and looked at us. He didn’t know anyone was there. He was almost dead. He was dead when we came back down”.  Just think for a moment about what she is actually saying. They literally left him for dead.

That body was either Wang Yifa, a Chinese climber, or South Korean Song Won-bin, both of whom died in that period. Next was the dead body of Eberhard Schaaf, a German doctor. Shuttleworth’s team cut him from the rope to get past.

Leanna was ‘briefly elated’ when she reached the peak but believes the day will haunt her for life: “You’re thinking, ‘Is there anything I could have done?’ It’s put me off Everest. I really, really didn’t enjoy summit day because of that”. What a shame her fun was spoilt.

The answer to her question: yes, her team should’ve tried to help Yifa or Won-bin. How did she know that the semi-conscious climber was unseeing or almost dead? The callous and matter-of-fact rationalisations are very cold indeed. What happened to common decency and empathy? Shuttleworth deserves to be haunted. She still lacks remorse and insight.

The story has a redeeming strand of mountaineering ethics. Israeli Nadav Ben Yehuda, 24 yrs old, came across Turkish-American climber Aydin Irmak, who he’d befriended at base camp, slumped only 250m from the summit. Yehuda gave up his ascent, carried him back down and Irmak survived. Yehuda also found a semi-conscious Malaysian climber on the way down, when another climbing team appeared: “After a long debate they gave him oxygen and he survived”. Debate about what, one wonders? And, where were the abandoned climbers’ mates?

The selfish indifference of all these ambitious goal-seekers determined to claim their moment of glory and bragging rights is staggering. Is this the inevitable result of our corporate-cultured and self-centred societies, that we can climb over dead bodies, or walk past those still alive, merely in pursuit of our own fame?

Special thanks to Christian Wild for permission to use these photos

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