Friday, March 10, 2006

Games fever in Melbourne?

Visited Melbourne this week and took in some of the Commonwealth Games preparations – here are some observations.

The Opening Ceremony
Andrew Walsh is the artistic director for the Opening Ceremony on behalf of Jack Moreton Worldwide. People in the Melbourne event industry are confident that Andrew will produce a fitting spectacular.

Andrew has rejected reports in the British media yesterday that Kylie Minogue was booked to perform at either the Games opening or closing ceremonies.
After the opening ceremony, crews will have two days to remove the 7300-square-metre stage before the athletics competition begins.
A stage for the closing ceremony will take 16 hours to erect.
The network of overhead steel cables will support many of the 3000 lighting fixtures that will be used during the opening ceremony.

Games officials are now considering giving away tickets to the Opening Ceremony to Games Volunteers. According to The Age “Thousands of Commonwealth Games volunteers will get free seats at the opening ceremony if the remaining tickets fail to sell by the end of the week.
With 12,000 A and B category seats still on sale, Melbourne 2006 chairman Ron Walker said the tickets — priced at $590 and $420 respectively — could be offered to Games volunteers in "three or four days' time".”

Obviously the ticket prices were grossly overpriced in the first place. The Manchester opening ceremony was sold out in advance, but the Manchester stadium only accomadated 35,000 wheras the MCG has 85,000 seats.

Ticket Sales
The organisers of Melbourne 2006 were focussed on the notion that Melbourne is a sports mad city – true, Melburnians even watch rugby league even though their homegrown football is much more skillful and entertaining. However Melbourne sports fans are tribal rather than patriotic.

The Games Buzz
Comparisons with Sydney 2000 are inevitable, but skewed. The Olympics are a far bigger event in terms of events, competitors, officials, visitors, etc.
There were a few things in particular that captured our attention and imagination in the lead-up to Sydney 2000 and I shall compare them.

The blue line in Sydney marked the Marathon course and people got excited when it passed nearby, so much so that it was diverted into a pub somewhere along the route. The blue lines in Melbourne mark the Games Vehicles only lanes and are causing much angst with Melbourne drivers.

The “LOOK RIGHT” signs that appeared on Sydney footpaths prompted many newspaper letter writers to ask what the right look might be. Melbourne has missed this unique opportunity.
From about two weeks out athletes, officials and volunteers in their distinctive uniforms and ID lanyards seemed to be everywhere. There is nowhere near that saturation in Melbourne one week out from the opening.

What really set Sydney abuzz was the arrival of the Olympic Torch in the Sydney CBD about a week before the opening. This really set Sydney alight. So far the Queen’s Baton Relay has engaged little excitement apart from a protest yesterday at the site of the Eureka Stockade.

Regarding the traffic – most of the issues are currently around Albert Park where the track is being prepared for the Grand Prix that will take place the weekend after the Comm Games. The road closures are seriously affecting access to the venues in that precinct, mainly swimming.

However on the positive side people I spoke to are sure that Melburnians will get behind the event once it kicks off.

I was asked in Melbourne for my perspective on the Games from outside Victoria. I related the Queen’s baton Relay experience in Canberra. The ACT Government put on an event to mark the baton’s arrival on Saturday 25th February in the Canberra CBD. Over 100 officials, sponsors and event staff were evident in their uniforms of various hues, but they outnumbered the “excited” citizens who turned up to witness the event. The following Monday morning the Baton departed from Government House and was carried through the Parliamentary triangle to the Australian War Memorial. The National Capital Authority put on a BBQ breakfast for workers from the surrounding Government buildings – no one came. The baton was held aloft for the obligatory photo op in front of Parliament House, the forecourt was deserted.

The Arts
Festival Melbourne2006 is a fantastic program of arts events running during the Games period and it is all free. So even if you are not interested in sport, a visit to Melbourne during the Games can be well worthwhile just to check out a huge range of talent that will be on display. Information is buried on the Melbourne 2006 website.