Guest Opinion: On Not BelievingThe Hype
There is a delicious irony in the fact that the same Sydney Local Council which some time ago met with all the others and agreed, at the next Spring planting, to rip up and replant all their flower beds in the Olympic colours is now planning to evict squatters from within view of SOCOG headquarters.
There is something very Sydney about this contrast of priorities, something which resonates strongly with an attempt to remove the last of the convict ‘stain’ from a society which claims to have long ago overcome it’s chequered past and declared it’s liberality and (small ‘l’) liberalism.
Consider what this means: plant nurseries have been labouring away for months to produce buds required for the serried ranks of flowers no-one is likely to notice, and on substantial contracts in order to get the work done on time. Who bears the cost ? Inevitably it is the local ratepayer – and, surprise, rates all over Sydney have recently risen. Further rises seem inevitable after the Olympics.
Some of the results can be found in a few patches of colour at the intersection of General Holmes Drive and the Eastern Distributor (UBD 275, P8) and some attempts at the Olympic rings at the intersection of Baywater drive and Bennelong Rd at Homebush Bay (UBD 212, P8) - but nothing to get excited about.
It seems that flower arrangement may be more important to South Sydney Council than the increasing blight of homelessness around us. What comes next - ‘let them eat cake ?’
Another Olympic Folly seems to be an attempt to paint the bus-lanes in central Sydney a strange purple-red. Has a new Olympic ‘tradition’ been born ?
When viewed through my yellow-tinted night driving glasses it looks uncomfortably like Imperial Purple. I initially put it down to the Italian background of Sydney’s current Lord Mayor and the influence of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator. Unfortunately, the concept of ‘Imperial Sydney’ did not go down well with a bunch of New Yorkers and I have since discovered that it was first done in Atlanta.
Road workers beaver away at it at real personal risk at strange hours of the night and it seems almost churlish to inquire about the cost.
Symbolism matters, as the recent debate about an Australian Head of State has shown. Sydney, at the moment, looks like an exotic post-modern outpost with a profusion of coloured banners and medieval tents at the Airport and Homebush Bay; like a Middle-Age tournament recreated by Monty Python.
Is it a message, deliberate or otherwise, about power relations in 2000 ?
Another piece of symbolism is the building of the Olympic Stadium on the place where Agent Orange was manufactured for the Vietnam war. In one sense it is consistent with the most constructive traditions of ancient Greece and President Clinton’s forthcoming trip to Vietnam where he is, perhaps improbably, seeking a sense of closure. In another, how much dioxin remains in the water table underneath ?
As the Australian dollar plumbs new depths and Sydney descends into uncritical adulation of the Olympic Torch – a ‘tradition’ started by Hitler at the 1936 Olympics which harks back to the fire-worship and swastika of Zoroaster - I cannot forget that Socrates, in a trial for his life, argued that philosophers should be given more honour than sportsmen.
Good luck, Athens.