Crio’s Question?…the backdrop

Does anyone else occasionally find themselves glancing up at a SkyRacing screen as it ricochets to tracks across Australia? I always find my eye distracted from the race taking place – especially since I rarely have any financial interest – to the scene in the background.

You get a snapshot of the country. The droughts and sunsets, the colours and industries.

Sunday I was at Ballarat where for R3 the commentator could not see the start through the low cloud and rain.

Meanwhile on a monitor nearby they pulled up at Clare having seemingly galloped through the vines.

Over in WA’s wheatbelt I nearly sneezed seeing the crops blowing behind the starting gates.

A smaller TV was on the Wedderburn trots where, as is so often the case with the trots, a flat barren land stretched out to a wide horizon.
I guess this is part of the apprehension felt by some of us towards the Adelaide Oval redevelopment – transforming a distinctive character in to just another “first class stadium”.

I hope not.

The Cathedral at staid Adelaide, like the old Gasometer at the grimy, characterless old Kennington Oval or the sparkling Indian Ocean as the backdrop as they race down the back at Cairns, add to the sense of place and identity missing at sterile, functional venues like Docklands where the people could be coloured in and the map reference could be anywhere.

Look beyond the foreground. Outside the fence. It is more than just the stands and advertising hoardings. Sky is the best for this as it jumps borders so quickly – in one moment there’s a milking shed with bored dairy cattle looking over the home turn and, soon after, they’re racing beneath the high rise apartments in the heart of Hong Kong.

I’m not referring to the vistas shown by the blimp…what I want to acknowledge are the various natural and physical features that form a coincidental backdrop to sports telecasts.


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I enjoyed seeing my old High School in the background of Elizabeth Oval. Further east were the nearby hills and the disused quarry, scene of many cross country runs for PE. At the Northern End (at least in the old days) the vista included the swimming pool diving towers and the Town Centre clock.

    And gum trees, lots of gum trees …

    I was always fascinated by the big old houses lurking behind the eastern wing at Unley Oval – not a semi-detached Housing Trust place in sight.

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    and the Holden’s factory in the background at Cheltenham

    and the State Bank Building / Santos House / Westpac House in the hazy background from Footy Park

  3. Good one Crio, love the backdrop at Bluetongue on the central coast of palm trees and water, the gasometer at Arden st, the train at glenferrie.
    Of the tracks, the refinery at Rosehill, the Grampians at Dunkeld, the vineyards at Penola and the cane fields at Murwillumbah.
    also mate, how many beers had you consumed when you saw the Indian ocean atCairns?

  4. Broome!

  5. I’m with Cowshedend. Prettiest racetrack I ever saw a meeting at was Murwillumbah. The sun setting over the cane fields behind the back straight as the last was run, with Mt Warning and the Great Dividing Range as the backdrop.
    Had a look at Chantilly in France on a non-race day with the extraordinary huge Chateau at the top of the straight with its adjoining stables (186 metres long) all along the top turn.
    The water always provided a brilliant back drop to sport in Sydney. There was a rugby union field on the cliffs near the Gap at Watsons Bay, with the Pacific Ocean as back drop. And a cricket ground in Mosman near Taronga Park Zoo with the harbour and the southern shore mansions of Vaucluse as back drop.
    Growing up on Yorke Peninsula many cricket grounds were sheet limestone, barley crops and salt lakes. There was one at Honiton which was a farming crossroad (no town) between Yorketown and Edithburgh, where the ground sloped alarmingly from east to west and there was a cyclone wire fence to protect the crop on the lower side. If the ball got past you it was a certain 4, and you just had to fix your eye on the exact spot where the ball disappeared into the waist high barley. Half a dozen fielders would then come over and tramp down the crop until someone trod on the ball, so it could be returned to play. Pink salt lake in the background. No grass, just limestone and a malthoid pitch laid on concrete. Corrugated lean-to for the scorers/spectators. It certainly stays in the memory.

  6. Peter Fuller says

    I like the soccer ground in Gosford where Central Coast Mariners play, virtually on the beach.
    I’d also join the chorus of approval for Dunkeld racetrack in the shadows of Mt. Abrupt.
    I recently visited Marysville and the football and cricket ground there is set in a beautiful bowl surrounded by mountains. The visual pleasure is of course tempered by the knowledge of what happened in that valley on a terrible February Saturday almost six years ago.
    I played football at Croydon, and on the many days when I was struggling to get a kick, I could always divert my focus to the lovely view of Mt. Dandenong on the eastern side of the ground.
    Of the big city grounds, Adelaide Oval and the WACA are favourites, and I share Crio’s concerns that the redevelopment at AO is likely to compromise the alternative views of the Cathedral or the City skyline with Mt. Lofty in the background.

  7. another consequence, Peter, of the “grand” stands at Adelaide may be the heat factor. The gap between the Cresswell and Western Stands was where the afternoon sea breeze could sneak through. It will be a furnace in there in January.
    Om TV, Gloucester Park is always a favourite backdrop, especially if the crims on rims are going around.

  8. TV is deceptive. The WACA is a dump, and the worst ground for spectators in Australia by a mile. Cricket pitches wing to wing, on what was a footy ground so the plebs on the mounds feel like they are in Bunbury. The stands are antiquated except for the members in the Lillee/Marsh.
    You can’t see Gloucester Park from the WACA because it is obscured behind the old stands. It is also a dump; except for the nice stretch of grass in front of the stands in the home straight. Good vantage point. Otherwise a tarted up Wayville Showgrounds. Pick the leader.
    Adelaide Oval will always be home for me. Glorious views to the hills; grass mounds; cathedral bells; outfield carpet and a pitch that always crumbled late to give you a result.
    I fear it has been ruined for cricket with modern stands and a drop in pitch. Harris will break down, and Mitch will implode when he can’t get the ball above knee height. This series is a long way from over.

  9. The rest day was so important, especially in Adelaide. Make the runs before and then survive after….plus the collateral damage from the players’ day-off in the Barossa.
    TV is kinder to WACA than concreted Subi and has a cear sense of place.
    TV and reality are, of course, often strangers.

  10. I have high hopes for the Adelaide Oval redevelopment and I guess everyone will get a look with the next test approaching.
    The northern mound will still be there, complete with Morton Bay figs and the old scoreboard remains. It also looks like there will still be a bit of a gap on the south western side for a breeze that will make goal kicking at that end a bit more challenging. I haven’t been to West Lakes (footy park) for years because of the traffic issues and the sterile environment so I’ll probably catch a few AFL games next year in the hope of a better experience…. that probably means I’ll be able to have enough beers then hop on a train, being skipper to footy park is no fun.

  11. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Favourite view of a oval is at , Dudley Uniteds ground on , KI with the rocks and ocean behind you and also the boats out there it I’d fantastic . Of the major grounds I reckon the sheer size and coloseum effect of the , MCG gets my vote overall in Aust I think we are pretty lucky re our major ovals . In regards to , Ad oval totally agree the rest day was so important also minimised the benefit of winning the toss and as for this bloody drop in pitch which considering the lack of rain in general we get in , Adelaide was totally unnecessary should have just stayed there it will be far worse bland boring crap decks so far in the shield games . Can there be more life and pace in the test pitch
    I doubt it Thanks Crio

  12. mickey randall says

    Clare golf course and the neighbouring race course- green, undulating hills and vineyards.

  13. SA features well here but for the panorama the “Duds” footy ground at Penneshaw and Strath racecourse win my vote.
    It would be hard to toss the VH Bowling Club and Pt Elliot Bowling Club views too

  14. I remember when the Poms toured while MCG’s Ponsford Stand was being redeveloped. Big vacant whole in the concrete & steel, through which spectators and players could see the neighbouring Melbourne city buildings. That was brilliant.

    Enjoyed the surrounds at Durham’s Test venue in the last northern summer, too.

  15. yeah, that’s the sort of thing i meant – unintentional but it really diverted the eye.
    What a Hill that would make on the Western wing of the MCG!

  16. Crio
    Good question and it prompted me to the 1986 cox plate as every time I watch this race I am always drawn to the old blue car which seems to take off with bonecrusher and our Waverley star at about the thousand and goes with them down the side at the valley. Manages to say with them for a while better than most that day anyway. The person is probably totally oblivious to their place in racing history.

    Check it out 1986 Cox Plate (Bill Collins version) – YouTube

  17. Sporting Braga – a team in the Portugal first division – have an unbelievable backdrop to their home ground. At one end there’s a cliff face no more than 20 metres behind the goals, as this link shows:

  18. Those West indian cricket ovals with the Carribean for a backdrop do it for me every time.

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