The Australian Open is the biggest sporting event we host in the country on a consistent basis and for anyone who doubted the significance of Australia missing out on hosting the 2022 Football world cup need only spend a couple of days in the early part of week 1 wandering around the grounds of Melbourne Park.
Australia might not have any combatants left in the main draw but that is also appealing as the mainstream media can now get on with appreciating quality tennis that the international players provide us. The constant and unrealistic gushing of Channel 7 and The Herald Sun in particular, of anything Aussie is enough to call for the bucket. Thankfully Sam Stosur and Bernard Tomic’s exists in the third round on Saturday night allow the rest of us to enjoy the tennis for what it is – a brilliant international event. The formula Grand Prix also falls into this category and I will move on to this below.
Australian tennis was close to having its last rights read at the conclusion of Day 3 of the Australian Open 2011. Of the 6 Australian men in the draw only one made it through to the 2nd round and only one qualified without wild card assisted entry. Despite the praises of our current players and difficulties of being a top player on the tour that my co-host Bids constantly tells me of, the perception to the tennis fan in this country is that Australia is a third rate citizen in the world of tennis.
More than 90 Europeans were in the main draw. There have been suggestions (including myself on the show on Saturday) and articles throughout the week that we don’t have a good structure or our coaches are not up to it or the players are not driven enough or work as hard as their European counterparts. However, is it too simplistic to respond that we are just not good enough? The cycle of Australians dominating sports is at its lowest ebb for a couple of decades. Certainly in the sports that consume most of the back pages of the newspapers. Our Cricket team is down in the most traditional form, and Stosur whilst a hope of a Grand Slam is not gone - particularly on her favourite service clay – there are questions about whether that will happen when there is a production line of top European players bobbing up at every tournament.
In all I think Australia’s sporting demise is cyclical and we will only come out of it the better for it. An ugly nationalism has crept into the Australian sports supporter that a cold shower and poor results will help diminish for future years. Hopefully this lull will give The Fanatics and us time to learn some new chants besides Aussie Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi and some great results in the next decade of the 21st century.
The Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix is contracted to be in Melbourne until 2015 and is another of our great sporting events on the calendar. The reports yesterday of potential losses of $70 million a year to stage the race by the Mayor of Melbourne Robert Doyle are an overreaction to generate a bit of political support and to make his position seem relevant. The Australian Grand Prix does not lose this amount of money at present and the inflated number of $70million is an estimate at this stage.
It costs money to put on an event, any event. However it also costs money to do a feasibility study into improving transport links or connecting freeways or level crossings yet each new government sees reason to hire more consultants and advisers every change election to garner votes and provide their own costs on projects. The grand prix brings interstate and international visitors to Melbourne, generates excitement and buzz in the city that week and is another reason to show the world why Melbourne is the sporting capital of the world.
Yes the costs are high, but with an increase public liability insurance – thanks to the litigious society our American cousins have passed on to us - the need for extra security staff, extra police, extra safety measures to cover this from when the race first came to Melbourne it is to be expected. Costs are high for New Years Eve and Australia Day fireworks yet the elected representatives and public are not demanding this to go.
The Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park is a world class event with over 500 million people watching the race and the pictures of Melbourne being beamed into their homes (the beauty of a street circuit). It is important that we fight to keep the race here in Melbourne but more importantly in Australia. With so much competition for races from other countries now surely there is some allure to hosting the event. Should we lose the race in 2016, the great fear of the grass is always greener will come to light as we will miss it when its gone.