The Olympic Torch is currently resting comfortably in a Canberra hotel after its flight from Jakarta. That’s more than you’ll be able to say for Canberrans tomorrow morning, given torch relay organisers have cleverly designed the route to ensure the maximum number of workers in the Parliamentary triangle and what passes for the CBD in these parts will be blocked or delayed from reaching their workplaces. Canberrans have been told to get to work by 8.15am. Prepare for a Public Service-wide productivity surge tomorrow.
You have to hand it to the Keystone Cops of the AFP. Given plenty of encouragement to lock the place down and handed $2m to waste, they’ve erected kilometres and kilometres of metal barricades. There are literally tens of thousands of these things lining central Canberra at the moment, and some fencing contractor must have struck it filthy rich.
The AFP have also inexplicably “closed” Lake Burley Griffin for most of tomorrow. While this will doubtless prevent the planned marine assault by the Royal Tibetan Navy, it has infuriated businesses that make their living from running cruises and, one assumes, that mob who rent out those pedal boats that are compulsory experiences for any tourists enjoying our fine city.
And it’s not too late for yet another twist in the saga of the flame attendants, whom John Coates revealed today wouldn’t be staying on the bus but would be running alongside the torch – all the better to throw their bodies around it, as the Chinese Ambassador suggested last night, although he later claimed he’d been “misrepresented”, presumably by his own mouth, since that’s exactly what he said. Not to worry, though, because he’s taken the precaution of bussing in Chinese students to run their own interference with anyone daring to protest.
China’s Foreign Ministry have warned against protests in Canberra because the torch “belongs to the whole world”. That the corrupt thugs who run China (latest effort – dispatching a boatload of weapons to fellow despot Bob Mugabe) object to expressions of dissent even in other countries is no surprise. But let’s get over this fetishisation of the Olympics.
Year after year the same faces, the Kevin Gospers and John Coateses who are apparently on the Olympics gravy train for life, stand up to declare that it’s all about the sport, or world peace, or the youth of the world. In fact it’s a giant media event designed to generate massive revenue which, this time around, is being employed to promote one of the world’s most brutal regimes.
And you can see where these sports administrators come from. Just about every athlete or sports person parrots the same lines about sport having nothing to do with politics or, for that matter, morality, as if sports – professional, international sport, in all its cash-generating glory – is somehow a priori disconnected from basic ethics and standards of civilized behaviour.
For those planning to have a crack at disrupting the relay, or who just want to marvel at some wonderful security overkill, the event kicks off at 8.30am tomorrow morning.
The location? Reconciliation Place. That’s Olympian-level irony.