An Australian Juggernaut
at The Commonwealth Games (Part I)
25, 1994 03:30
16:25 Toowong, Queensland :: 24 AUG 94
For several weeks leading to the opening of the '94 Commonwealth Games
in Victoria, Canada, the Australian media blitzed messages of the inevitable
Aussie medal horde. They thrust out the prediction of 70 gold medals like
a boastful chest and now the event commentators beat it relentlessly.
My sister and I, Canadians both, gleefully cheer on all opponents to
the prediction regardless of their nationality. For the benefit of her
husband, we count back from 70 for every Aussie favourite that fails in
their bid for gold. The count stands now at 63 and we've missed plenty
of events. On the other hand, our count doesn't acknowledge the long-shots
who beat expectations, and that happens often enough. Today, with 4 days
of competition remaining, Australia holds 38 gold (19 in the pool), 32
from their goal. Canada trails with 24 (9, I believe, by wrestlers) followed
by England with 15.
I wonder if the rest of the Commonwealth have grown as weary of "Australia
Fair" as I. Then again, I don't imagine the Canadian or English media
show the full medal presentations for victorious Australians any more
than we see anybody but Australians standing on the top level of the podium.
Then again, I notice something about the event coverage here that differs
from my memories of years split between US and Canadian coverage of Olympics
and other world events sporting events. Here, every "up close and
personal" athletic profile features an Australian athlete. Even the
US media, which is busy enough covering the exploits of a plethora of
world-class American athletes, recognizes excellence from foreign nations.
Indeed, the likes of Olga Korbut, Nadia Comaneci, Franz Klammer, Katerina
Witt and even Shayne Gould, garnered popularity throughout North America
in part due to American and Canadian coverage of them beyond their exploits
in the games. ABC Sports made many of them household names in North America
through the breadth and depth of their coverage.
I've always found the most interesting aspect of games broadcasting to
be its personal expositions of the participating athletes and its cultural
and geographical investigation of the host country. The Australian coverage
is entirely remiss in these. We see here on occasion brief video passages
of Canadian locations, usually used for transition between commercials
as filler. That is the extent of it. An opportunity for learning is lost.
The games are reduced to a medal count, to which country produces the
best athletes, to nationalism.
And these bad been dubbed "The Friendly Games."
A lesson does emerge. The commentators' song rings in universal tones.
"It's GOLD for Australia!" The pressure to succeed, that is
to win since gold is the only measure of success, is immense. Lifetimes,
and fortunes, turn on the arbitrary and random events unfolding in a deep
breath's elapsed time, but no quarter is given for failure. Even a margin
of .01 seconds prompts analysis of factors causing "defeat".
The commentary, "there's no shame in second place," implies
the contradiction. "She cut her personal best by 4 seconds, but today
that just wasn't good enough." No wonder Hayley Lewis and Jane Fleming
hang their heads so low even when standing on the silver medal platform.
Interestingly enough, during the two medal presentations the Australians
"put on a brave face" while Canadian faces beamed satisfaction
for their bronze. From all accounts I've heard, being a bride's maid is
a fine honour and a lot of fun.
Continued in Part II
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