Look, when all is said and done, I too suspect the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo really will go ahead, even with nobody in the stands and everyone out there in Hazmat suits. While it was one thing to postpone them from last year, the financial imperative to put them on this year – or forego billions in television revenue from around the world – will be so strong for both the IOC and Japan itself that it will be irresistible.
But just say it doesn’t. Just say Japan remains immersed in its current COVID-19 woes and simply can’t put it on. Is it absolutely crazy to think that … Sydney could do it? We have the facilities. We have the population. We have the know-how. We have the blueprint for precisely how it was done in 2000. And, most crucially, we could provide the COVID-safe environment they most desperately need. After the current brouhaha over the Australian Open, we even know how to deal with sportspeople who whinge and whine about going into quarantine – tell them to shut the hell up, or there will be no porridge for them.
I reckon it is worth quietly exploring.
Let’s cut to the chase. Margaret Court being appointed in the Australia Day Honours List, as a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) is wrong on so many levels at once it’s hard to keep track.
We were told it was for – and I am not making this up – her “services to tennis”. This, despite the fact that she was already so honoured with an AO back in 2007? She really was a fabulous tennis player and good luck to her, but what on earth has changed since then to take her to the highest peg of all? What we know she has done over her career on and off the courts is to become Australia’s most infamous bigot, with a long record of spouting toxic nonsense.
As far back as 1970 she first came to public notice for marginalising groups when she spoke out supporting apartheid in South Africa, at a time when America had embraced the civil rights movement:
Former tennis player Margaret Court. Credit:Getty
“South Africans have this thing better organised than any other country, particularly America.”
More recently, she spoke out on the modern game:
“I mean tennis is full of lesbians, because even when I was playing there was only a couple there, but those couple that led took young ones to parties and things.” (The seeming sub-plot: gays are predatory and predisposed to seducing young ones to their wicked ways.)
On transgender children:
“That’s all the devil … but that’s what Hitler did and that’s what communism did. There’s a whole plot in our nation, and in the nations of the world to get the minds of the children.” (The seeming subplot: Transgender people are inhabited by an evil spirit. The likes of Hitler and the communists have corrupted children in similar ways in the past – and there are evil forces out there, right now, who want that fate for Australia’s kids.)
You get the drift. These are just a few of the causes she has put the weight of her fame towards supporting. And yet she is the one Australia puts forward to say: she is among our best and brightest, the one who has done so much to make our country and community stronger that we have reconsidered the honour previously bestowed and are going to take it up to the highest rank of all.
I know, I know. Court has a right to free speech! But that is not remotely the issue. Firstly no-one is putting her in prison for those remarks. Secondly, the right to say something toxic doesn’t give you a right to end the conversation right there. And thirdly, she is not being honoured for that, but for tennis – when her career finished 50 years ago.
As to Court’s own contention in response to the outcry that, “I am being bullied,” that doesn’t work either.
The whole issue is her words enabling bullies. As discussed in this space many times, the suicide rate among gay and transgender teens is half-a-dozen times more than the overall rate for teens is the prime example of how such toxic words can have shocking consequences.
Enough. That was as quick as I could do it. But in terms of pulling the wrong reins this one was not just wrong, it was incomprehensible.
Golden age revisited
Around a long table in a private room, high in the towers of Barangaroo, we gathered on Thursday evening. We were members of the Australian rugby community coming together for a swish dinner – the first in that establishment – to decide just what form the new Wallaby jersey should take, based on a series of knock-out votes between eight iterations of previous jerseys. Note: the vote was on colour, not design. And the correct decision was reached: it was the tone of the jersey of the 1991 World Cup winners, the Age of Camelot, that got up in a thriller. And yes, I can hear the sneers and jeers already: “Oh, great, here is Australian rugby deciding, the BIG issues, etc.”
You don’t get it. Yes, rugby in Australia right now has more problems than a cat with a long tail in a mouse-trap factory. But the night wasn’t just about picking colours the way your Mum did from the Dunlop paint palette back in the 70s. It was about reconnecting the modern rugby world – which on a bad day can be feel like corporate cart that has lost its way – with the magic of the past when it could make a brown dog weep with joy. And what better way than bringing many of the makers of that magic together with a few of the rest of us to talk it through? Luminaries included John Eales, Nick Farr-Jones, Bob Dwyer, Rod Macqueen, Phil Kearns, Peter Fenton, Gary Ella, Richard Harry, Morgan Turinui, David Campese, Michael Cheika, Simon Poidevin and the oldest living Wallaby, Eric Tweedale who is just a few months shy of 100 years old. Australian rugby used to know how to do this: play fabulous rugby that triumphed in stadiums across the world and produced men that the cauliflower community was interested in, related to, and proud of. There has to be a way to find our way back. It was a pleasure and a privilege to be there and it felt like the beginnings of getting on the right road once more.
Anthem free for all
The above gathering began with Olivia Fox – the young Indigenous woman whose rendition of the national anthem in the Eora language before the Test against Argentina last year took Australia by storm – giving us a wonderful reprise. FYI, Warner Music has just recorded a new version of her singing the same, complete with the new words of “we are one and free,” instead of “we are young and free”. Warner gave their expertise and support gratis to help elevate the rendition to a new global audience, in backing its distribution through streaming platforms and the like, and it will soon be available so we can all more easily learn the Indigenous words.
Ocean magic is back
The Murray Rose Malabar Magic Ocean, you will be pleased to hear, is on again, taking place on Sunday 21 February 2021 at Malabar beach starting at 8am, with three events, 5km swim, 2.5km swim and the 1km swim. With a COVID-safe plan and the backing of the Randwick Council it is one of the few community swims going ahead this season – and you can sign up here. Organised for many years by James Pittar, who is legally blind, the swim raises funds for the Rainbow Club which has provides one-on-one swimming tuition to children with disabilities, and now has 28 clubs in NSW From Orange down to the Southern Highlands and throughout Sydney. Bravo.
What they said
US world No.49 Tennys Sandgren ranting on social media about Tennis Australia do no more than obey Victoria’s public health regulations that newly arrived travellers must observe a lockdown of two weeks plus change: “I just found out we’re not going to be able to leave the room until midnight tomorrow. My name’s Tennis Australia and I’m sooooo cool.” No, Tennys, you are an entitled prat. Pull your head in.
The redoubtable Greg Norman, doing the promotional rounds for the Channel Seven reality show Holey Moley involving mini-golf: “I was meant to swim around the pool, and golfers would have to leap onto my back to get across the water . . . but we did some tests and unfortunately my skin is so silky smooth everyone kept slipping off. So we had to go with a fake shark instead. Damn this ageless body!” Stop it, you lot! Greg can explain.
Norman explains: “I think what most people don’t realise is I do have a really good sense of humour and I do take the piss out of a lot of people and I do have a lot of fun with people.”
Rugby Australia Chair Hamish McLennan, looking at past Wallaby jerseys as they look to change the current one: “A picture says a thousands words and this shows the madness of our inconsistency. We are green and gold, and I underscore gold.”
Bob Dwyer chimes in: “We don’t want yellow … we want a gold colour.” Hear, hear. Bob got it, with the tone if not total design of the jersey of his 1991 World Cup Champions being selected.
Professor Michael Buckland of the Australian Sports Brain Bank on the brain of Shane Tuck former Richmond Tigers player, who died at the age of just 38. “It’s the worst case I’ve seen so far. It was actually quite shocking, the degree of disease he had.”
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on coming up against 43-year-old Tom Brady in the Super Bowl: “Being able to go up against one of the greatest, if not the greatest, quarterback of all time in his 150th Super Bowl is gonna be a great experience for me.”
Cricketer Peter Handscomb: “Probably the biggest thing is I’ve got off most social media, and try not to read anything that’s put in the media, because it’s like compounding interest, the more you read, the more it starts to take over your life.”
Margaret Court: “I’m being bullied.” [See item.]
Nick Kyrgios on Novak Djokovic: “I think it’s very important [to hold players accountable] especially when it’s one of our leaders of our sport . . . I’m not doing any of this sort of stuff for media attention: these are the morals I’ve grown up with and I was just trying to do my part.”
Former Socceroo captain Ned Zelic on twitter: “Instead of ‘President’, Biden should be called ‘His Fraudulency’ – or ‘The Fraudulent One’ #ElectionHeist.” Bloody hell. The nutters got another one! Ned? Get a grip. This is American kool-aid madness. We try not to serve up that shit here.
Barney Ronay, writing in The Guardian on Chelsea’s new manager Thomas Tuchel: “Enter the gangling Bavarian uber-nerd, tactical modernist and obsessively-minded details coach, a man whose stated hobbies include nights in drinking orange spritzer and ‘an interest in furniture design’.”
Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, now 52: “I recently made a 720, [spinning with the skateboard in the air twice, and landing] and it was a battle. The last one I made before this was over three years ago, and it’s much harder now all things considered: recently dislocated fingers hinder my grab, my spin is slower so I need to go higher for full rotation and … I’m really old.” Only if you’re a skateboarder Tony. Try lawn bowls, and you will be a spring chicken.
Team of the week
Caleb Watts. The 19-year-old Australian made his English Premier League debut with Southampton during the week.
Stars and Renegades. Not a good Big Bash for the Victorian teams as neither made the finals.
AFL. Announced changes to its concussion protocols, requiring players to have a 12-day break after a head injury.
Tom Brady. There were a lot of questions about him going to Tampa Bay after two decades with the Patriots. But he’s now playing in his 10th Super Bowl and will be the first quarterback to play a Super Bowl at home – while the Patriots sank into a mud-puddle of mediocrity.
Todd Greenberg. The former NRL CEO was announced as the new CEO of the Australian Cricketers Association.
AFLW. Fifth season just got underway, with Collingwood recording a great win over Carlton.
Rob Lloyd. The volunteer in the sporting community received an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in last Tuesdays Australia day honours list for his work in, the Rainbow Club the Malabar Magic Ocean swim and the LBW Trust.
RIP. Alice Hoagland. The mother of Mark Bingham, the gay rugby player who was one of the four who charged the cockpit of Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, bringing it down in Pennsylvania, threw her energies into the gay rugby movement thereafter and was revered for it. She died this week at the age of 71.
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