Last Wednesday night, as Melbourne beamed its Commonwealth Games
opening spectacular to the world, you could almost hear the estimated
1.5 billion viewers scratching their heads and asking, “what the f*#k is that?” as the now infamous winged tram
descended onto the hallowed MCG turf.

And rightly so. It was a uniquely Australian centrepiece for the
Games opening ceremony, and one which drew its fair share of
international comment. But the idea of a flying tram, surprisingly
enough, probably wasn’t the work of those ever-so creative
minds in the Victorian bureaucracy.

Instead, it dates back as far as 1988, when Melbourne multimedia artist
Ron Eden created “Marvellous Melbourne’s Flying Tram show” – a 12
projector, one screen, multimedia piece that glorifies Melbourne
through the eyes of a young boy. The show was originally prepared to be
shown in a fun park in Melbourne’s western suburbs, but had to be canned
because the local council demands were, according to Eden, “outrageous”.

So Eden transferred his presentation to video, and later DVD, and
distributed it around the world to anyone who wanted to promote
Melbourne. In just over 17 years, Eden’s show has won a swag of international
awards, including some of the world’s most prestigious tourism gongs.

“It’s my idea – the whole thing was my idea”, Eden said late
last week, telling Crikey he’s always owned the sole copyright,
but he does admit he had a bit of help getting the idea up.

Eden called the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony organisers about
two years ago to suggest they might want to consider his flying tram,
but he “never heard a word since then” – until rumours
started going around about this magical flying tram appearing in the
ceremony.

“Did they rip it off? – chances are”, Eden said. “What really pisses me
off is that they do this quaint little thing of putting wings on the
tram.”

In Eden’s original version, a tram on the corner of Swanson and
Flinders Streets is hit by a magical boomerang, thrown by an aboriginal
from the Wurrundjeri tribe more than 150 years earlier. The tram takes off into the air.

Anyway, Eden’s not overly acerbic about the incident. As he puts it,
before the opening ceremony about 1,000 people knew of his magical
tram;
that figure’s now probably jumped, by his estimate, to around 400 million – even if they
do think it has bloody wings.

Peter Fray

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