Networkers, I am sitting here pie-eyed watching the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. It has been a sporting day because, as a dedicated Rugby League fan, I watched the Rugby League Grand Final come to a satisfying conclusion with St. George Illawarra (The Dragons)coached by that modern-day hero, Wayne Bennett, winning an absolutely marvellous game. Congratulations to The Roosters for providing such strong competition.
I sit here to-night watching the nations of the Commonwealth of Nations entering the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. The lead up to the opening ceremony focussed on the insufficiencies of the athletes' accommodation. To-night as I watched nations from around the globe coming into the stadium, I was reminded once again about what the Commonwealth Games and the Olympic Games are all about. They are to be joyous competitive sporting events devoid of international politics. The Australian athletes arrived to be pleasantly surprised with what awaited them. It seems that in spite of or because of all the controversy, all with be well for the athletes - all manner of things will be well.
I know we were concerned and I think our concern was compounded with memories of terrorism in India in 2008.
We did forget something of our own history, though. In 2000, Sydney staged a successful Summer Olympics which was declared the best ever, and is still remarkable in spite of two other Summer Olympics since then. Those Olympics in Sydney were held for two weeks followed closely by the paralympics. When we think back, our memories become a bit like the memories surrounding childbirth. We forget what led up to the successful event. We forget the pain, the agonies.
Michael Knight was the Minister for Sport as Sydney prepared for the Olympics. There were all sorts of disagreements within the team preparing for the Olympics. It was reported that, in the Christmas-New Year break early in 2000, Michael Knight discussed his situation with his family. He is supposed to have explained to them that, if he was to continue in his role, there would be a lot of unpalatable and hurtful discussion in the media.
Michael Knight continued in his role - but it cost him his political career in the end. Michael Knight may never have become Premier of New South Wales... but he would have been a contender. The toughness required to get the Olympic show on the road did not lay a good foundation for winning friends and influencing people, for developing the relationships necessary for a successful leadership role in politics.
The Olympic Games was no automatic economic panacea for Sydney. I lived in Elizabeth Bay at the time and long-standing landmark tourist accommodation was, in the wake of the Olympics, turned into residential apartments. Overall, there was an economic let-down, not an economic windfall as was hoped.
So we remember the happiness of the event - and the friendliness that surrounded it. People travelling on City Rail were friendly, cheerful, and spoke to one another for two weeks. After that it was back to the early morning Sydney sullenness and hiding behind newspapers!
I think Delhi may turn out to be like that. The Commonwealth, that old band of international friendships, will come together. Unhappiness in the preparations will be buried within a successful event. India - the largest nation in the Commonwealth - is doing its best. It wants everyone to enjoy being in India - and it will want us all back if it ever gets to hold an Olympics.
And we do learn a lot.
For instance, I had no idea, until to-night, that Rwanda was a member of the Commonwealth. I searched the net (finished up on Wikipedia as usual) and found that it Rwanda is only a recent member under the provisions of a recent document which allows nations with a link to at least one other Commonwealth nation to join. Rwanda is part of an organisation called the East African Community - and the other members are all Commonwealth nations. It appears that Rwanda could not be left apart in this economic arrangement, and so has joined the Commonwealth. All I had known was the Rwanda was a former Belgian and German colony and a Francophone nation. Now Rwanda is one of us.
In 2009, Rwanda became the second Commonwealth member admitted to not have any such constitutional links. It was formerly a Belgian trust territory that had been a German colony until World War I. Consideration for its admission was considered an "exceptional circumstance" by the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Let's Go, India!
Good Luck, Australia!