Money Well

The Australian national psyche is one of the oddest in the world. Where else would one cheer for the underdog, believe in a fair go for all, show restrained signs of tribalism, and cut down those who rise above the pack? This is something we are all very proud of, yet when we do the very opposite of this, not a word may be uttered; for who would dare go against the grain?

To say the Melbourne public has been harsh on the recent announcement of a new $150m multi-purpose rectangular stadium in the Olympic Park precinct is an understatement. Letters have been pouring in and editorials written condemning the government?s decision to spend this money on building another world-class, high-quality sporting facility. ?This money should be spent improving hospitals and schools? claim these authors, nitwits who choose not see the big picture. These comments are really quite hypocritical ? especially from such people who claim they live in the ?sporting capital of the world?!

The whole notion of sport in this city is a farce. For them, all sports are declared equal under the sun ? so long as they are a clear second to their prized local game, Victorian (now Australian!) rules football. It covers the newspapers, the televisions, the radio airwaves ? yet nowhere else in the world has this ridiculous sport bothered to become involved. The drummed-up support and a well-oiled media machine ensure that their sport is quite literally everywhere you look from March through to September each year, regardless of how nonsensical the game actually is.

We occasionally get other sporting events here too ? you might have heard of the Commonwealth games which occurred in March. Apparently a big world-class event using every possible venue right across the city. It filled our televisions and newspapers for weeks right around the country and was supposed to bring huge economic and financial growth to the city. They spent hundreds of millions of dollars reconfiguring and upgrading the Melbourne Cricket Ground (which doubles up as the home of local football) for the games, only to rip it all up and bring it back to its former configuration. Costing around four times greater than building our new stadium, not so much as a word has been said.

The state coffers (filled by taxpayer dollars) pour millions of dollars each year into the continuation and support of this game to upgrade facilities and its promotion. Not to mention the enormous money, time and space wasted on formula-one racing each year. The city is turned upside-down and it becomes a nightmare to travel anywhere in the vicinity of Albert Park to get to work or leisure. And again, the entire track is constructed and then pulled back to pieces each and every year. But not a single word is uttered about the costs spent on this.

A twenty-five thousand seat, state-of-the-art stadium to promote games requiring a rectangular field has been desperately required for at least the last decade. Olympic Park is first and foremost a running track, and the facilities built (and for the most part untouched) in 1956 for the Melbourne Olympics belong to the antiquities. Generations of soccer, and more recently, rugby league fans have been forced to use the ground because there has been nothing else suitable ? yet there has been no issue pumping what would now be billions of dollars upgrading and building new stadiums for ?aussie rules? matches.

To have two first-rate football teams (albeit of different codes) sharing a hopelessly inadequate facility is a blight on the game, and more importantly a blight on this so-called ?city of sport?. A multi-purpose, rectangular stadium with adequate facilities for players and fans (not to mention regulation in-goal areas!) is a wonderful opportunity to show just what Melbourne has to offer. And of course, Melbourne, the sporting capital, would have also gained its rugby union Super-14 franchise had there been a proper stadium.

I am a Melbournian. I am also a league fan. I love my footy and would love to see it played in a proper stadium. Congratulations to those involved on making the right choice and upgrading our dilapidated, crumbling facilities and bringing them into the 21st century, and I (along with many others) will relish the opportunity to watch our sport played in a fitting stadium.

Regardless of comments made by narrow-sighted individuals, one might even say it was money well spent?