Because our dedication to Crikey knows no
bounds, I flew to New
Zealand for 48 hours
on Saturday night, and spent Sunday watching the Commonwealth Games on TV in Auckland.

It was a different experience, and relax,
ex-pats, I’m not about to Kiwi-bash for a moment. In fact, I have nothing but
sympathy for the Kiwi TV commentators who have to work harder because their
athletes are failing to win a gold every 37 seconds, as is the case here.
Newspaper headlines had to resort to “A silver lining!” or “Our bronzed
heroes”.

New Zealand was having a bad Games, at least during my brief stay. Every Kiwi
athlete, no matter what their world ranking, or prospects, seemed to finish
fourth. Everyone would get excited because the local hope in cycling was
reigning world champion, hot favourite, in beautiful shape coming into the bell
lap – a swarm of riders would hit the line … yep, fourth. You could feel the
whole nation sag slightly. It was only the Rugby 7’s gold and the fact that the
Black Caps Test team was thrashing the Windies, including getting rid of Brian
Lara for a single figure score four times in a row, that stopped total despair
setting in.

One New Zealand columnist, Michael Donaldson in the
Sunday Star Times, isn’t enjoying his Games at all. In fact, he wrote that he
couldn’t wait to leave Melbourne, renaming the city “Guantanamo Bay” because of the overbearing security that haunts
journalists and spectators at every turn.

While Melburnians have
taken to calling the volunteers “Smurfs” because of their blue shirts,
Donaldson was stopping just short of using the word “Nazi”, citing individual
cases such as a journo being told he couldn’t use a tape recorder because he
was a print journo, or a volunteer yelling at a small group of media to walk on
the left hand side of the footpath – on an empty bridge – not to mention the
endless X-ray machines and pinpoint entry to events.

Donaldson also quotes
police chief Christine Nixon as saying intelligence has confirmed there is no
particular threat to the Games and therefore asks if it’s all some bizarre
experiment in human behaviour? “I certainly feel like a rat in a maze,” he
said. “The blue shirts
haven’t ruined the Games but they’ve tried their hardest to make it as
unpleasant as possible.”

Ouch.

Peter Fray

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