Great Britain has put on a magnificent Olympics with fantastic venues, surprisingly good weather, enthusiastic fans and, touch wood, no serious security breaches or major drug scandals involving big-name athletes.
Immediately before the Games, as in the lead-up Sydney 2000, there was much moaning from locals lamenting the cost and inconvenience of it all. As in Sydney, all of that vanished the minute the flame was lit.
The British tabloids have taken predictable swipes at Australia’s lowly standing on the medal table relative to team GB, which was predictable and no more or less than we would have done. But that’s nothing compared to the venom with which Australia has attacked itself during these Games.
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When you buy your ticket to the big game, you get certain privileges which don’t apply in the outside world. You get to leave your pie wrapper and beer cup at your feet. You get to yell insults at the match officials. And you get the right to boo to your heart’s content.
This right is not enshrined in the Australian constitution, nor even on the fine print of your ticket. But it should be, because booing at sport is as natural as cheering, even if it’s your own beloved team.
At the Super Rugby this weekend, a significant contingent of the 14,000 strong Sydney crowd booed the NSW Waratahs against the Western Force. They booed at halftime, then again at fulltime when their team’s slender lead had evaporated and they lost a match everyone expected them to win.
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It was on. You could feel it. Tendulkar was in the mood. It was The Little Master’s last match at the SCG, a ground he loves in a city he loves, and you could just sense a big score. Maybe even that elusive hundredth hundred.
The night was warm enough for T-shirts, cool enough for comfort. Australia had runs on the board, but nothing that looked beyond India’s reach. The sun was setting and the scene was set. And then it happened.
Sachin Tendulkar was run out. There was the suggestion that Brett Lee impeded him. Twitter went into meltdown in India, even though it’s fair to say the Indian tweeters didn’t exactly have the best view of proceedings. Replays showed Brett Lee had done nothing wrong. The world’s biggest and most authoritative cricket website, the India-based espncricinfo.com, concurred.
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When Australia’s universal good guy Pat Rafter makes Lleyton Hewitt look well-mannered, you know the Australian sporting universe has been turned on its head.
Everything went wrong for Australian sport this weekend. Everything. The NZ Warriors knocked Wests Tigers out of the NRL finals, Ireland beat the Wallabies in the Rugby World Cup, Sri Lanka dominated the cricket, and the Davis Cup turned ugly on court and off.
Sheesh, even the early Melbourne Cup favourite is now a Kiwi horse. But let’s talk about the two that really hurt – the Wallabies and Davis Cup.
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The world’s unlikeliest cricket club touched down in Australia yesterday. And boy, do they have a timely reminder for us all.
The Compton Cricket Club is a group of reformed gangsters from the infamous violent South Central Los Angeles neighbourhood. I wrote about these guys for The Punch last September when four of them made a flying visit out here to raise awareness and funds for the current tour. Mission accomplished.
Self-described “ambassadors of peace and goodwill”, the Compton cricketers long ago turned their back on the wildly egotistical, chest-beating American sports culture which has rapidly become inseparable from the wildly egotistical, chest-beating global sports culture.
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Arsenal striker Eduardo has been banned for two matches for diving, providing hope at last for all football fans.
A Uefa disciplinary panel ruled he cheated to win a penalty in a Champions League qualifier last week against Celtic.
The punishment far outweighs the yellow card he would have received had the referee spotted his dive, and that could be argued to be unfair.
At 3pm on Sunday, Hazem El Masri will run onto the world’s worst footy ground to play his final home game. Sydney’s ANZ Stadium (Or Glebe Morgue, as we call it) is an embarrassing venue for such an occasion, but we’ll defer that argument for the sake of keeping the mood upbeat.
For the blue-and-white army in the distant stands, Hazem’s farewell will be something akin to the retirement of a beloved community leader.
Now in the month of Ramadan, Hazem will take no food or water between dawn and dark on game day.
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WHY is it that we in the media think professional sports people are obliged to speak to us?
We pay our money at the gate, watch them perform masterful feats on the footy field or cricket pitch, then go home elated or mad as hell, depending on the result. Athletes could be forgiven for thinking the transaction ends there, but clearly it doesn’t.
This week we saw the public flaying of Dragons player Darius Boyd, whose 42-second press conference showed that he’s not likely to sit for his bar examinations any time soon.
I call them “floaties” - swimsuits that float. Just watch all the torpedoes fly on top of the water in Rome. Today’s elite swimmer makes the original Thorpedo – Ian Thorpe – look like a slowcoach.
The deluge of world records this week at the FINA World Championships is nothing but a farce.
Swimming’s governing body, FINA, has made a serious blunder which has triggered the ridiculous number of world marks.
I sat next to Matthew Mitcham on the plane to Beijing. He asked me a question that no man has before or since. As the plane hurtled down the runway, I was fumbling with the words to the Lord’s Prayer when Mitcham turned to me and said: “Do you like musicals?”
I enjoy musicals about as much as knee reconstructions. Or plane trips. As Mitcham talked and talked about one show tune or another, I became convinced a mental patient wearing an official Olympic tracksuit had been let loose on the plane. The next time I looked out the window we were approaching 20,000-feet.
Of course, once the landing gear was folded away it became clear that helping a stranger to overcome a morbid fear of take-off was his intention from the start. That’s the type of guy Matt Mitcham is.
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Winding up Ricky Ponting threatens to overtake fishing as England’s biggest recreational sport.
From his Gary Pratt blow-up in 2005 to Sunday’s ‘Physiogate’ press conference, us Poms like nothing better than to dress up the beady-eyed Tasmanian as the pantomime villain.
It’s just so much fun to watch – Little Ricky standing there in the playground shouting, “Miss, they stole my Test match…”
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