It is Cathy Freeman, keeping the show on the road, and maintaining her poise, her still lit torch raised to the heavens even as her knees are knocking together in the wet cold and in her ear she can hear one of the directors, say: “There’s a technical problem but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed shortly . . .” followed by someone else shouting “F—k! F–k! F–K!” And then the line goes dead.
In the stadium, we’re still going: “move, move, MOVE!”
Like Neil Armstrong in Apollo 11, coming in over the Sea of Tranquillity for a landing, only to be confronted by perilous boulders meaning international embarrassment is only moments away as the capsule runs on fumes alone, so too our Olympic cauldron. It is about to fizzle out, and with it the glamour of the whole damn Sydney Games. We would make the best of it, we know, but nothing could overcome the embarrassment of such a fizzer at such a moment.
But still, we are Australians, at the end of a whole extravaganza of Australians. What have we traditionally done in the face of a seemingly insurmountable obstacle? We have either held things together with fencing wire and elbow grease until better days, or we have got a bigger hammer and given things a bigger bloody whack.
WHAT THEY SAID
NSW Premier Calls Party Room Meeting To See If Any More Bush Drunk Morons Wanna Have A Crack? – Headline on the Betoota Advocate, after John Barilaro’s embarrassing backdown to the Premier on Friday morning.
“It is long established convention that members of Cabinet must support government legislation. It is not possible to be the deputy premier or a Minister of the Crown and sit on the crossbench.” – Gladys Berejiklian slaps down the Nats for threatening to walk if she didn’t stop protecting koalas.
“He cannot understand selflessness because he is selfish. He cannot conceive of courage because he is a coward. He cannot feel duty because he is disloyal.” – Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III, the “Hero of the Hudson”, himself a veteran, lining up President Trump over his reported comments disrespecting veterans.
“If you hit someone, you are done.” – An official explaining why Novak Djokovic was suspended from the American Open after hitting a chair umpire in the throat with a ball.
“No.” – Julian Assange, asked at his hearing at the Old Bailey in London if he was prepared to consent to be extradited to the US.
“It’s getting to be shameful that this can be happening and Australia is not officially speaking up.” – Bob Carr, former foreign affairs minister, angry that Australia is not supporting Julian Assange.
“Set yourself achievable goals. One of the simplest things you can do in the morning … is make your bed. It sounds so simple, but if you get into some structure and routine for the next two weeks while the stage 4 restrictions are still in place in metro Melbourne and the surrounds, those sorts of achievable goals and structure can be very important to keep you on track.” – Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth, advising people struggling with mental health, on how to cope with Melbourne’s extended lockdown.
“What has changed is that China has become immensely powerful and Xi Jinping is taking them to the brink. The fact that Bill Birtles and Mike Smith have effectively been expelled – it’s just appalling … in some ways it’s brought home to people in Australia what has been happening for a long time.” – Peter Ellingsen, who was The Age’s China correspondent from 1988 to 1991 and witnessed the Tiananmen Square massacre, after Smith and Birtles, the China correspondents for The Australian Financial Review and the ABC, were forced out of the country.