The all-in dust-up over a boxing kangaroo
Not since Australia clinched victory in the 1983 America’s Cup has the Boxing Kangaroo been up for a fight like this.
It might not be Australia’s national flag, but the fighting marsupial is proving to be a rallying symbol of unity ahead of the Winter Olympics in Canada.
Only a few weeks ago, debate was raging about whether the nation’s official ensign, sporting a Union Jack in the corner, was appropriate for a modern Australia. Opinion polls at the time showed we were mostly happy with our flag. This doesn’t mean we don’t have a special place in our hearts for the kangaroo with a KO punch.
And so it was gloves off when the International Olympic Committee last week reportedly asked Australian athletes at the Winter Games village in Vancouver to take down from their balcony a giant banner sporting the mascot.
The IOC argued it was unhappy with the placard being on display because the Boxing Kangaroo was too commercial and was a registered trademark.
But to the Aussie athletes that was like waving a red flag in front of a bull, a number taking to the streets in protest. Even Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard weighed in to the debate calling the IOC order “ridiculous” and “a scandal”.
And comments to online news sites mostly agreed.
Charlie Brown of Brisbane wrote on The Courier-Mail site: “The Boxing Kangaroo is the flag of Australian sporting teams. The IOC is far too precious and using the excuse that it is a registered brand is just hypocritical when the five rings are also a registered sporting brand.”
Gra of Not of Sydney sent a message of support to the Aussie athletes through the Daily Telegraph: “Pathetic. These IOC officials need to get a life. Nothing symbolises Australia more than the green and gold banner of the Boxing Kangaroo. Keep the flag flying guys and screw the IOC.”
In a comment to Ninemsn, Aussie and Proud of It from Sale, Victoria, wondered why the practice of flying the Boxing Kangaroo had attracted special attention at these Games: “I think it’s strange that, after all the previous Games our country has been represented in - all those times that they’ve displayed the Boxing Kangaroo flag wherever they’ve resided - now it has suddenly been decreed that they should remove it. If it was wrong then, shouldn’t the tradition have been stopped decades ago?”
The Boxing Kangaroo saga has been just as big in Canada, where the local media has been closely following the row.
It prompted Jon of Vancouver to send a comment to Perth Now: “I live here in Vancouver, and I’m embarrassed by the attitude of the Vancouver Olympic Committee (VANOC)/IOC on this issue. The flag is clearly about team spirit and there is no reason in the world why it should not be allowed. Stand tough, Aussies!”
Even a Canadian former Olympic swimming gold medalist cheered on the Aussie fighting spirit. Elaine Tanner of Vancouver, in a comment posted on The Courier-Mail site, said: “As a Canadian Olympian triple medalist from Vancouver I am appalled by this ‘mean-spirited, oppressive attitude’ of the Olympic officials. I will gladly wear your wonderful, spirited kangaroo flag. This spirit you Aussies bring is a welcoming breath of fresh air to the oppressive, over-controlling atmosphere here in my home city of Vancouver by the Games officials. I can assure you it is not from the people of the city or province … Go Aussies Go!”
But not everyone is in love with our sporting mascot. Lesley of Newcastle did not think it represented Australia in a good light, commenting on The Courier-Mail: “The Boxing Kangaroo flag is not the official flag for our country and that is why it has been ordered to be taken down. If they flew the official flag then that would have been different. Only bogans would see the Boxing Kangaroo as a true representation when Australia is on show. It’s okay for a bit of fun, but not when representing this wonderful country.”
Whatever the fate of the Boxing Kangaroo, let’s hope that same fighting spirit spurs on the Aussie athletes to bring home gold from the Winter Olympics.
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