Did anyone else notice this story about the Commonwealth Games in The Age on Monday? These lines were buried under some athletic guff:

Games chairman Ron Walker insists the event will
be bigger than next year’s soccer World Cup. “It will be bigger than
the World Cup in terms of its volume … the World Cup is a major
sporting event, but it hasn’t got a chance of attracting the same
volume of crowds,” he said.

Hello! Bigger than the
World Cup, my foot. When is someone going to start taking on Mr Potato
Head after 13 years of exaggeration about major events, dating back to
the 1993 press conference when Melbourne stole the Grand Prix from Adelaide
and Ron declared it would cost $5 million in infrastructure and then
run at a profit each year? Last year’s loss was a record $13.4 million.

Sure, The Age and the Herald Sun
are signed up as sponsors of different aspects of the Commonwealth
Games but that doesn’t mean Ron can literally make it up as he goes
along and not get corrected.

For the record, the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan was attended by
2.72 million people. There are only 1.248 million Commonwealth Games
tickets available and only about 800,000 of these have been sold so far.

Clearly, the Commonwealth Games is not in any way comparable with the
World Cup and Ron of all people should know this given that his
Melbourne Major Events committee made a run at hosting a future World Cup in
the 1990s and Ron is on the board of the Football Federation of
Australia.

The decision by the Bracks Government to leave Ron as chairman of
Melbourne 2006 was at some levels a sensible exercise in political
inoculation. If the budgets are blown or the games are beset by
stuff-ups, the Liberal opposition might pull a few punches given the
power that Ron holds in conservative circles.

Ron was also well placed to extract the $300 million commitment to the Games out of
Canberra, although as The Agereports today, even that is now in dispute as the Federal
Government insists on some basic detail and accountability before
sending down the last $70 million instalment.

It will be interesting to see if anyone ever challenges Ron’s
drunken sailor impersonation as he strives to produce the “best ever”
Commonwealth Games. The state government is claiming its contribution
will be $697 million, plus an unspecified amount on security, but that
is almost certain to blow out, although the public won’t be told until
after the state election next November.

Let’s hope the Fairfax press manage to campaign hard for the release of
all the financial figures relating to the handiwork of their chairman
before Victorians go to the polls.