In the maelstrom, energy, and angst of late 70s London punk a maverick emerged.
Ian Drury was 35 — an old man and seasoned musician in a sea of angry young things — but the punks adopted him as one of their own. After all, he’d been wearing an earring razor blade long before Johnny Rotten had ripped his first T-shirt.
He fused rock ‘n’ roll, funk, ska, reggae, and old-time music hall with the punk ethos of creative self-expression and out popped some of the best songs of the late 70s.
While London was burning and anarchy was in the UK, Drury was taking a different road.
In his Reasons to be Cheerful Part 3, to the backing of a particularly funky un-punk groove, he rolled off an eclectic list of reasons to get up and going each day.
Among them were: Buddy Holly, the Hammersmith Palais, porridge, the Bolshoi Ballet, the juice of a carrot, a little drop of claret, motorbikes, sex, John Coltrane, curing smallpox, yellow socks, Salvador Dali, phoning a friend, prostitutes, Dominica Camels, and on it went.
All very well, you say, but what’s Ian Drury got to do with this week’s announcement that Brisbane has all but won the right to host the 2032 Olympic Games?
Tenuous, I’ll grant you. But as I was strolling down the street the morning it was announced that Brisbane had been announced as the IOC’s preferred candidate city, I foresaw all the options for cynicism that would surely get thrown up.
Suddenly Ian Drury and Reasons to be Cheerful popped into my head the way songs will.
Sure, the Olympic Games have become the very symbol of overblown excess in the sporting world.
Olympic cities build grand stadiums that soon fall into ruin as budgets go into deficit of billions of dollars.
The International Olympic Committee fat cats have a jolly old time while the homeless are shuffled off the streets.
Bread and circuses, that sort of thing.
It’s all fair, proven, correct.
The IOC only has itself to blame for creating a system that saw potential cities throwing good money after bad in order to get the Olympic nod, with the baked-in potential of corruption leaving a legacy of sporting white elephants as necessary collateral — think Athens, Rio and Pyeongchang among many others.
The IOC has reformed the system of bidding, and while it remains to be seen whether the 2032 Olympics will actually be cost-neutral as promised, at least there is a recognition that the over-spending and overbuilding days are gone.
And so, in the spirit of Ian Drury, here are some reasons to be cheerful about the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane:
Reason number 1: Legacy infrastructure
The Olympics have a new model based on the idea that cities should not build new venues unless they have an ongoing life.
For years it looked like the Sydney Olympic precinct at Homebush would become the white elephant that so many predicted after the 2000 Games. But go there now and you’ll find a thriving work, retail and residential community. Not only is Olympic Park home to many of Australia and New South Wales’ leading sporting institutions, it’s also home to Sydney’s largest stadium and others that regularly host elite sporting contests.
Tens of thousands live and work in the area and on the weekends, the surrounding parklands hum with people having a picnic, riding a bike, exploring the wetlands, or using the sporting facilities like the Olympic pool. If Brisbane does have to build new infrastructure, it’s mandated that it has to be done with a view to a long and useful life.
Reason number 2: Brisbane is a beautiful city and it’s particularly lovely in September
Reason number 3: Large multi-sport events are fun
If you were at Sydney in 2000, you know what I’m talking about. The people who fled the city out of fear and loathing regretted it when everyone who stayed told them what a good time they’d missed out on. The Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006 was a hoot as was the 2018 edition on the Gold Coast.
It may be short lived, but for a couple of weeks the community can come together to enjoy a rare collective experience of goodwill. When it’s done well, the public transport works, every night’s a party and barring that bastard COVID still lurking, you’ll get to meet people from all over the world.
Reason number 4: Watching elite sport is brilliant
It doesn’t matter if it’s Cathy Freeman winning gold in Sydney or the crème de la crème of Polish European Handball, the Olympic Games provide an opportunity to see the best of the very best do their thing — often for free — and that’s just a buzz.
Reason number 5: A home Olympic games is a massive drawcard for Australian athletes who long to compete in front of friends and family
If the AOC and the member sports get it right, the Olympic Games can provide an incentive for hundreds of thousands of young Australians to engage in sport. Right now, there’s an eight-year-old girl practicing her front-side airs at the local skate park, who will go on to compete at the Brisbane Games.
Australia has learnt its lesson from Rio when the focus was on winning above else. The Olympic Games were created on the idea of participation. That notion has become outdated in a world of doping and unequal access to coaching and training, where rich nations have a massive advantage over poorer ones. It will ever be thus.
But the goal of competing and doing your best is still something worth aspiring to and if that encourages people to get active, what’s not to love?
Call me naive, call me foolish. You may be right.
But just for the moment, I’m going to ignore the cynicism that so easily bubbles to the surface and instead find the reasons to be cheerful.