The opposite view
With Christmas behind him and the southern summer in full swing, Andrew Whittaker offers an update on Melbourne’s cultural calendar
Andrew Whittaker (furthest right), Mancunian by birth but a Melbournite by choice. Could the weather have been a factor?
Everyone is away for the summer and it is not until the second week in January that people start drifting back from their holidays along the coast. There are many things happening in Melbourne in terms of big events so the locals enjoy the weather and follow the sport. The cricket results against South Africa have caused a massive outpouring of grief and the selectors have taken a savage battering. Not only have Australia taken a solid beating at home but -- even worse -- it has given hope to England that they might regain the Ashes in your (northern) summer. It has been noticed that one British bookie has already installed England as favourites to win back the Ashes. No further comment is needed.
The glamour girls of tennis are flying in daily to prepare for the Australian Open. Funny how the female players get all the media coverage until the event starts and then the men get noticed. It is great event, particularly in the first week. This is when everyone is playing, you can see the top players in the outside courts and it is not expensive to get a day ground pass. I will be going with some friends so I hope it will not be too hot as there is not much shade on the outside courts. The Tour Down Under also starts in Adelaide and it has grown to be a major cycle race that now attracts the big teams as part of their training for the major European tours later in the year.
The cycle of beach events has started around Port Phillip Bay with a regular open-water swim every weekend from now until the end of March. These are fund-raising swims run by local surf clubs that attract between 1,500 and 2,000 swimmers for events that are usually between 1.2 and 1.5 kilometres long. They are great community events and have a strong following, especially among people wanting to keep fit and enjoy the outdoors. The biggest is the Lorne Pier to Pub race which is so popular that it had to be capped at 4,600 swimmers. Also round the Bay are the regular triathlons that have become popular with the fitness fiends and the recreational cyclists.
Because of the dry weather we have also seen a big increase in outdoor concerts, both at sports stadiums and at vineyards. ‘Opera in the Vines’ is increasingly popular and a couple of the big upmarket vineyards on the Mornington Peninsula and in the Yarra Valley have had very successful concerts.
We are still in a drought situation with water restrictions. Our dams are only 34% full ( normally it should be 85%) so it will take years to recover even if we have excess rain. Other parts of Australia are doing OK for rain but the south-east of Australia is in real trouble. Gardens are steadily changing to become more Mediterranean and drought-resistant. There are some benefits: we now grow olives, mandarins, lemons, figs and pomegranates in our garden so we have our own source of fruit.
The global financial crisis (GFC) is starting to have an effect on professional sport, particularly as new contracts are being negotiated; sponsorships will no doubt be affected. However, attendances at the local facilities are holding up so far. We will be interested to hear thoughts on what will happen to the leisure industry in the UK as a result of the GFC and I hope to be travelling to the UK later this year to see for myself. Take heart: the Ashes may well be coming with me.
The Leisure Review, February 2009
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