I was going to keep my mouth shut. I really was. I am aware that my feelings on sporting events (indeed, on movement in general, but sport in particular) are not necessarily shared by the wider community. Sure, sure, sport is the one arena in life in which one can achieve perfection, or so people tell me - score that goal, beat that record; quite frankly, though, if your ideal of perfection is running really, really fast or throwing something super hard, well then, you're most welcome to it. Nevertheless, I'd every intention of extending a courtesy to Melbourne's sporting community that it hadn't bothered extending to me, and shutting the fuck up so that it could have fun celebrating its damn silly little Games without the voice of an insignificant, whiny pissant needling from his blog.
That was until I made the mistake of watching the opening ceremony last night. Utterly disinterested in sport I may be, but I'm a keen observer of cultural events; I wanted to see just how far Melbourne could lower standards after the bouncing kangaroos, lawn mowers, inflatable Nikki Webster, etc, etc of the Sydney Olympics. I had low expectations, to be sure, but even so...I was shocked. Good grief. If I say that words fail me, it's not due to any deficieny on the part of my thought-meats, but a paucity in the language that leaves me with inadequately perjorative adjectives.
Let's start at the periphery: Ray Martin and Nicole Livingstone's commentary - which, when not vaguely insulting, bordered on the incoherent. Ray seemed to feel a need, whenever observing, despite all evidence to the contrary, how wonderful things looked, to mention that Melbourne was usually a 'conservative', 'staid', 'dull' 'little town'. Nicole enjoyed implying, many times over, that certain countries were only competing in the table-tennis because they had no real athletes, or only had entrants in the shot-put because the people of that nation were all fat. Most of the time, though, their comments dove merrily into imbecilities usually reserved for the likes of Daryl Somers: "We're...this is, with the baton on the surf boats...and you don't often see on the Yarra...there's a journey. A journey of lights, and we ask...that is, that you come...follow us." Brillant, Ray.
But that was nothing compared to the trashy, vulgar horrors of the ceremony itself. Is the summation of Melbourne's historic and cultural achievements really best expressed by a small, possibly animatronic boy with a papier mache duck (which later, for no apparent reason, becomes an angel, and then a real duck), who rides a flying skateboard (Ray: "Oh, the stories here! It's Huckleberry Finn on a journey") into the Arts Centre spire (Ray: "This is his cubby"), only to be rescued by obese gigantoid koalas on enormous levitating thongs (Ray: "Here come his mates!")? Is John Brack's Collins Street, 5pm peopled by bulbous peroxide blondes sporting neon pink tank tops and clown shoes? The dutifully ubiquitous 'Aboriginal element'...I wonder, were any of the performers there from the homeless group that 20 police officers were shoving into a divvy van outside St Paul's last Sunday for being visibly black and poor in front of overseas visitors? What, when one gets right down to it, do motorbikes have to do with ballet? And what do either of them have to do with Melbourne? And what a wonderful honour for some of the athletes, that as they paraded into the arena, the stadium announcers repeatedly cut away to reveal which AFL captain was now receiving the Queen's baton, leaving their countrys' names to be read out en masse a little later (Nicole: "Well, really only table-tennis players there").
Only two things leavened my deep-seated embarassment: Elizabeth Regina scowling at Howard, scowling at the wizened infant reading a speech to her, scowling at everyone; and our dashing PM, whose heroic lip-synching to the national anthem was hilariously out of time. But otherwise, the entire affair was a poorly-organised, tasteless shit-sandwich of an event. Tacky? It was positively viscous. Did it suck? Like a fellating vaccuum cleaner. Fuck you, Melbourne's Comonwealth committee; fuck you with a broom if you think that this cringe-worthy hoe-down even comes close to passing for entertainment, let alone a cultural event.
If only this was the end of it. Unfortunately, after another 10 days of sporting hoo-hah (a technical term), we'll have the closing ceremony. Is my liver going to be able produce the volumes of bile that my brain will surely demand? And don't none of you poor saps out there dare suggest that it might be good - for I have an inside scoop: a major segment of the closing ceremony has been entitled 'There's A Little Bit Of Edna In Us All' (I enjoy the work of Barry Humphries, but I refute the idea that any part of his least clever character has ever been in me) and will involve hundreds of tap dancers. Joy! Interestingly, and unsurprisingly, my sources inform me that organisation of the event is so lax that proper costumes have not been provided for the volunteer performers, who were told only last week to that they would need to buy their own Edna outfits, or whatever approximation they could find. My insider has decided to respond to this by purchasing a giant carrot costume. Should I decide to watch, this minor act of sabotage might make me chuckle enough to stop vomiting, but I doubt it.
Several million ducats were sunk into last night's Theatre of Shite, millions more into the Games as a whole; I only hope the brief increase in tourism bolsters the Victorian economy enough to justify the expenditure. I know I'll be doing my part to help us break even - after last night I've been buying anti-depressants by the armload, just to cope with the knowledge that I live in the same city that spawned that.