Almanac Olympics: Shame, Queensland





When in doubt, build a sports stadium.


Make it shiny so we can see our reflection. Blinded by the light.


Distract, deflect.


Ignore the scrutiny.


Neutralise the issue. Control the debate.


Put on a mask, board a jet, fly to super-spreader Games.


Sign on the dotted-line with a sanitised pen.


Make a deal with the devil at the crossroads.


The IOC owns you now.


Hand your state over. Condemn Queenslanders to a life of debt.


It doesn’t matter, you’ll be re-elected.


Grease the palms of crooks in suits. Don’t forget to wear gloves.


Beam like an idiot beside the Games mascot – a frog from a rainforest, maybe – and say how grand the bid was.


Unbeatable. The best of Queensland. A great day for Queensland.


But it wasn’t – no one else wanted the Games. LA had to be tapped on the shoulder, like in 84.


Dribble on monotonously about flow-on effects – jobs, international profile, tourism, the Reef. If it’s still there.


The ANZAC spirit.


Most venues are already built, so it won’t cost a bomb. Of course they are.


We’ll take it to the regions. Of course you will.


We’ll repurpose venues. You mean, you’ll tear them down when the circus moves on.


Lie about the cost. Sydney did. Everyone does.


No one believes you but we can suspend belief. It’s what we do.


After all, sport has replaced religion as the opium of the people – even skateboarding.


Keep them drugged.


But something has to give. Belts will need to be tightened.


Cut funding to services, health, education in Opposition seats. Family violence in Noosa Heads, playground for Mexicans, spikes.


You can’t have the Games and hospitals.


Come on, it’s the Games!


Don’t worry, you’ve got a decade to get everyone on board.


The five rings are everywhere.


Unity, harmony, equality…. Something like that.


Endless footage of sun-drenched beaches and brown-skinned families jumping and bobbing in the waves.


Glistening skyscrapers.


It’s paradise.


Crooks in suits and sunhats in the rainforests.


Crowds flock, waving their vacc passports. Security check for fakes.


King Charles cuts another ribbon, opens another gleaming venue. But weren’t they already built?


Another didg.


Count down to the big day.


A long-haired Gamer from a minority background lights the cauldron.


Look at us being inclusive.


Look at the medal count. We’re top 5 again!


Nouns become verbs and we medal in trampolining.


Verbs become nouns and we take learnings from a first-round exit.


But what if there’s a new virus? Deadlier. Too bad – you’re locked in. The IOC owns you. Remember Tokyo?


Lay down with dogs, get up with fleas.


It doesn’t matter – you’ll be re-elected.


We’re all smiling through our masks.


Shame, Queensland!!



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  1. Bread and circuses, Andrew, bread and circuses. It’s worked for thousands of years, still does and will again with this one. I, too, am underwhelmed.

  2. Andrew Fithall says

    The Queensland premier has already seen the price to be paid when she was treated atrociously, in front of the cameras, by that permanent public parasite John Coates.

  3. Powerfully written and right on so many points. The IOC is a business scam run by and for marketing corporations. But like my diffident attitude to Tokyo – I’ll watch and be amazed at the athletic performance – even without the drama of crowds. The Olympics is a symbol – an enduring pinnacle that millions of athletes world wide all strive for.
    It’s like Anzac – it was a con and a waste – but I am in awe of those who went and sacrificed and gave their all.
    It’s like the Tour de France – I’m captivated by the drama and the setting – and how endurance and strength is pushed beyond belief. But I’m convinced Pogacar the winner and probably many others are cheating in some technologically sophisticated way we’ll discover to our disgust in 5 years time. It was ever thus.
    So I’ll probably reserve a last gap of the superannuation for what I missed in Sydney and go to be enthralled while practicing that most Olympian skill. Simultaneously applauding while holding my nose.

  4. I’m with you PB, getting dragged into the hive of scum and villany that is the IOC’s wheeling and dealing (and by extension, governments and business etc) makes for an easy sell…but by going all in on bile and disgust, we jeopardise the notion of a platform to go faster, higher, stronger (together?) against the best of the best… QED why bother striving for anything?

  5. Bang!!!

    Powerful stuff Starks. I’m with you. Sadly, the Olympics organisation is like Jabba the Hutt, gorging on our insatiable appetite for sport. We’re like labradors stuffing our heads into a food bowl.

    But like PB I’ll watch the human side of it – the athletes. They’ll strive and compete and win and lose. Some of it will be rubbish but a lot of it will be compelling.

  6. Brilliant piece. And I agree with the comments. The exploiters will find those things which are easily exploited. I think the comments capture the complexities of this. I can’t turn away because the sports themselves, the athletes themselves and the feats are compelling and worthy of respect.

    On another matter, I would make one qualification: I think this is a very Brisbane decision, not a Queensland decision.

  7. Unofficial Partner is a brilliant website and podcast about the business and marketing side of sport. There is a 3 part series with a guy called Patrick Nally who was a brilliant inside guy on turning the IOC and FIFA into marketing monoliths. What many don’t know or remember is what an amateurish shambles the Olympics was at the time of the Montreal games in 1976 and nearly folded. Some clever marketing guys (Horst Dassler from the Adidas family among them) worked out a better way to organise and fund it.
    Episode 162 is on the Olympics and I was in equal parts appalled and astonished at the cynicism and genius. Pure capitalism in all its glory and exploitation.

  8. Andrew Starkie says

    Thanks for your comments.

    Ian – I know, I know. But, the Games have grown too big and burnt their light out. remember when they meant something.
    AF – have watched the footage of the presser with Coates and the Premier. Very, very rude, but he’s right, she should attend the opening. They own her now.
    Pete – I’m listening to Ep.162 now. Thanks for the tip. Love a good podcast.
    Dips – hope you’re well, mate. Let’s hope the sports shine through.
    Harmsy – I know the Games are awarded to a city, not a state or country, however the face of the bid is, in this case, the premier, which is at odds. And they made a focus of ‘taking it to the regions’, if you can call the GC regions.

  9. Andrew, what I should have said was that there would not necessarily be support for the Games across Queensland. I reckon the Games are more likely to be supported in the suburbs of Brisbane.

    It will be interesting to see how BOCOG people (remember SOCOG) brand the Brisbane Olympics from a tourism perspective. Will the Gold and Sunshine Coasts suddenly be part of Brisbane? Or will they have images of beautifully tanned smiling people spreading out their beach towels under the mangroves on the mud flats of Moreton Bay?

  10. Andrew Starkie says

    Interesting. I reckon there’ll be plenty of drone shots of beaches, skyscrapers and rainforests.

  11. That’s a great piece Andrew.

    I reckon that John Coates is entirely emblematic of an event which is now well past its expiry date. The fact that no other city is now stupid or vain enough to put its hand up for this bloated circus speaks volumes.

    I do feel for the athletes, and I do appreciate the great Olympic tradition. But it’s overdue time for a re-think. John Coates is so obviously a dinosaur, and I reckon his five-ring circus is pretty much the same.

  12. Thanks Andrew, good read. The words do well portraying the reality of the forthcoming event .

    I know i always defer to Adorno’s term ‘The entertainment Industry’ to describe contemporary sports but is there a better term to use?

    I do/will enjoy watching the Olympics, trying to peer past the hype, & BS, to focus on the extraordinary efforts of the athletes. Correct me if i’m wrong but was the L A Olympics of 1984 the only one not to incur a financial loss.

    If i’m still around in 2032 I imagine parking the zimmer frame next to the couch, grabbing a few cold James Squires and sitting back to immerse myself in the spectacle.

    Andrew here’s a link to another Olympic ‘controversy’. There’ s been a few.


  13. Andrew Starkie says

    Malcolm – ‘five ringed circus’ is gold;
    Glen – yes to 84; will read your piece; austerity measures in GB after London Games;


  14. Thought-provoking, Starkers.
    I know that over time I have really gone off the Olympics.
    Cannot see myself watching too much of it – if any – this time.

  15. I know it’s complex but I began to lose interest in ’92 when professional basketballers were allowed to compete at Barcelona and with this the original ideals were further tarnished. Did those of the Dream Team really require another platform for their monstrous egos?

    I’ve never enjoyed the shallow, dangerous nationalism that allows us, for example, to not care one dot about clay shooting over the intervening 200-odd weeks between games and then gush about while sickeningly using the word “hero” to describe Fred from Wagga Wagga who’s just won bronze.

    Great article Andrew. Captures my thoughts exactly.

  16. Many of Andrew’s valid criticisms apply equally to the AFL with it’s bloated corporate structure; opaque finances; and farcical non-profit status which means it pays no tax on its marketing and media revenues. It dispenses it’s largesse to community and state footy as a means of control – and woe betide any subsidiary league that dares question its wisdom or benevolence. Its “corporate partnership” with multinational fast food and gambling companies is beneath contempt.
    Together with the compromised season and the long run of boring meaningless games for TV means I’ve largely lost interest in AFL whereas the Olympics has a novelty value for me.
    Any other AFL conscientious objectors out there or are we so conditioned that we still slaver for our teams like pavlov’s dog?

  17. Warren Tapner says

    Well, I’m back on the couch with a beer and a packet of crisps.
    But what to watch?
    An AFL match with phony crowd noises, Brian Taylor and James Brayshaw lowering his eyes….
    Or Greco-Roman wrestling and artistic swimming?

  18. Tom Cranitch says

    Cleverly written article but I think it incorrectly takes the high moral ground. Just about every Olympics since WW2 has been polluted by capitalism, I am not sure why poor old Queensland has to be singled out now for playing the game that has been in vogue for decades and generations. At least the blatant bribery of IOC officials of days of old has been consigned to the historical dustbin.

    Some of the commentary too has a touch of selectivity about it as well. You have to take the Olympics as the full package, the good and the bad. It stretches credibility that you are just reading Playboy for the articles!

  19. Starks personally reckon you nailed it v telling that Brisbane were the only bidder staggering also re the current situation the country is going broke yet we want a Olympics bizarre,I’m with Mickey as well re the professional sports being included.

  20. Daryl Schramm says

    I read this when first posted. I wanted to comment immediately but wasn’t sure of my words. I’m still not.
    Great contribution Andrew and (for me) cleverly constructed. I don’t agree with the ‘shame’ theme. From a long way away in Adelaide, I’m OK with the the successful pursuit of the games for Brisbane, Australia. If I’m still upright, and able, I would like to attend. I’ve never been to an Olympic games event. I also give kudos for Brisbane for taking the risk of hosting the games in eleven years time. Things could be a lot better in the world by then, or they could be a lot worse. From a games perspective, anything could happen over the next fortnight or so in Tokyo, and Paris and LA subsequently. Not a reason to not take the risk. A lot of the sentiments in the piece are very apt, and can be applied to the general mood of the people regarding politics, media and sport hangers on in general. I’m over it all. PB’ touched on this in his comments, re AFL. Add cricket and especially, ‘the world game’ as well. This is what makes the Olympics unique. It is not just one sport, or a small, select group of countries participating. There is heartache and ‘hardache’ everywhere at the moment and the foreseeable future (debt etc). The games might be just what we need.

  21. Andrew Starkie says

    RB – having fewer bidders, I hope, is actually good for the Games. Less overspending, bribery, maybe? Or not.

    Daryl – look at how the cricket world cup final finished. Shambles. There was no winner! Sad. And the Euro Champs final week. Finals decided by penalties robs all integrity. Another pathetic example of modern day sport.

  22. Rick Kane says

    I want to agree wholeheartedly with this terrific rant/analysis AS but I keep thinking of Cathy Freeman winning gold in Sydney. That win and Freeman’s grace rippled and resounded across Australia and the years.

    Your arguments are hard to challenge considering what I thought back in the early 80s when “we” won the America’s Cup. I was bowled over with how ordinary Australians got behind what was essentially a millionaire’s sport. And I lived through WA spending up big in scrubbing up Freo for the 87 Cup. The whole thing disgusted me. Except that we did get to see Jimmy Buffett.

    Recently we witnessed Capitalism’s attempt to buy a Football competition with billionaire owners of some of Europe’s top teams attempting a breakaway competition. It was the fans reaction that stopped that deal. More often we accept sporting administrator’s arrangements, even as the arrangements morph into things unacceptable. The AFL has a lot to answer for in how VFL records/history simply became AFL records and history..

    Capitalism like a virus continues spreading its corruptible seed while we struggle to reign or even control its poison. Sport is one of its masks. Entertainment another. Technology too. And we live our lives of joy and desperation in wheels within wheels within that virus.

    I don’t know what I’m trying to say other than I’m not sure I share the extent of your horror of Brisbane winning the games and all the costs and supplication that goes with that tainted honour. I’m not sure how I feel about it other than my memory of great Olympic moments that are worth all the costs and efforts.

  23. Kevin Densley says

    Cleverly written and constructed, Andrew – but I simply don’t buy the “Shame” theme you’ve articulated, at least not in an overall sense.

    The world’s an imperfect place, the Olympic Games have become more imperfect as the years have rolled on, I suppose.

    I know I’d prefer them to be in Brisbane, for all the flaws they are bound to possess, than in many other parts of the world.

    What the alternative? Get rid of the Olympics altogether? I think that would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  24. Andrew Starkie says

    Rick – love your John Proctor reference;
    Kevin – I know the world is imperfect, but why make it worse;

  25. Kevin Densley says

    Hi Andrew. I don’t think the Brisbane Games would necessarily make the world worse – for me, it’s a matter of thinking and planning creatively in order to make them as good as they can be, in terms of social benefits as well as in relation to the commercial aspects.

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