IOC announces new sport on eve of Tokyo games.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has added Jousting to its official program in an effort to ensure the Tokyo 2021 games are completely COVID-safe.

“Jousting makes a welcome addition to the Olympic family,” read a statement from the IOC.

“We are very excited to add the ancient sport to the Equestrian program and did so for one very good reason: social distancing. Jousters will not pass within 1.5 metres of each other while competing because if they did, they would be smashed with a jousting stick and fall off their horse. In this way, Jousting is very much an extension of Fencing – a very long extension.”

“The sport forms the centrepiece of our COVID-safe games and it will not replace an existing sport. Jousters wear harnesses, or armour, which helps stop the potential spread of infection, and if they sneeze, they will sneeze straight into their full-face helmet and not onto anyone else.”

Jousters will compete on horses supplied to them, as all horses must have been in Japan for at least 12 months prior to competition, in line with strict quarantine rules. Riding a new and unknown horse is expected to add to the unpredictability and excitement of the event. Competitors, meanwhile, are ready to make their Olympic Games debut despite the very short notice.

“The IOC scoured the web for historical medieval re-enactment societies to find jousters, and the response was overwhelming. Jousters from all over the world immediately completed the application form and contacted their respective National Olympic Committees. Some even had patriotic medieval uniforms already made, and we look forward to seeing these on display in Tokyo.”

“Our other new sports also encourage social distancing. Skateboarders compete one at a time, sport climbers do not share the same rock wall, and surfers will never come together, as any elite surfer knows never to drop in.

Golf is largely risk free, because players can clean their ball at every tee, and sports such as Archery and Shooting are also guaranteed to be COVID-safe, because no one will get too close to a competitor carrying a deadly weapon.”

Traditional sports such as Boxing and the martial arts disciplines do present some challenges, the spokesperson conceded.

“Governing bodies and the IOC are still discussing a proposal to have wrestlers compete naked, like in the ancient Olympics, but to cover themselves in sanitising gel instead of essential oils. Boxers will coat their gloves in sanitiser before their match and between rounds.

Relay runners at Athletics will pass through a mist machine containing disinfectant at each baton change. In this way, the baton is sanitised before being passed to the next runner. High Jump and Pole Vault mats will be coasted in sanitiser, as will the bar. Likewise, throwers will select one Putt, Discus, Hammer or Javelin in round 1, write their name on it, and use the same one throughout the competition.

Rowing will see some changes. The 8’s become the 4’s, and the 4’s becomes the pairs and so on, because rowers must leave one seat between themselves and other competitors, just like on public transport. We’re certainly not expecting any world records in this sport, especially since the cox will be a robot instead of a person.”

The extended statement from the IOC then outlined further changes to existing Olympic sports amid the global pandemic.

“Handball poses a problem, even if just for the name itself. Meanwhile, a handball in Football will now result in an automatic red card and two week period of self-isolation for the offending player.

Water Polo will be played in pools so heavily chlorinated competitors will feel like they’re in a swimming lesson during an English winter, while Rhythmic Gymnastics coaches will use Super Soakers to spray the apparatus with disinfectant every time the gymnast throws it into the air.”

The spokesperson also conceded that Modern Pentathlon gives little cause for concern, not just because the 5 sports are all individual.

“It’s because nobody watches the event anyway.”

The biggest risk of transmission at any international multi-sport event is, of course, the athletes village. Asked what specific protocols will be implemented to separate the world’s fittest, healthiest, most athletically-gifted young people from all over the globe, the spokesperson replied:

“We’re not going to bother…”

Image: Vladimir Wrangel

Australia’s gone to the dogs. Part 3.

Australia has gone to the dogs. The nation is one of the world’s major drivers of climate change and is decimating its native wildlife and ecology, and is thus becoming an international pariah. The current government controls its gullible population with marketing spin, and education levels continue to decline. A tiny fraction of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and natural disasters arrive one after the other. But all Australians seem to care about are their dogs. Dogs are everywhere – in parks, beaches and cafes, and even public transport and libraries. This country has gone to the dogs.

Vaccine dogs

Dog lovers now have another Instagram account to follow. The account features pets accompanying their owners to COVID-19 vaccination centres in Australia. Sure, it’s a nice distraction from Australia’s shambolic vaccine rollout, which places the nation 101st in the world, but it distracts from the shameful reality. Only 2% of Australia’s population had been fully vaccinated at the time of writing this article, and the city of Melbourne has been plunged into yet another lockdown.

So incompetent is the current federal government in its handling of the pandemic, and the preceding bushfire crisis, that the prime minister’s popularity fell. In response, Scott Morrison was photographed with a cute little dog. 98% of Australia’s population are not vaccinated against a deadly virus, but the prime minister was photographed with a dog and his popularity has since increased. A sure sign of a gullible population. A sure sign of a country that has gone to the dogs.

But wait, there’s more…

Another prominent person was photographed with a dog. Tongan rugby league star Jason Taumalolo played his 200th NRL game for the North Queensland Cowboys recently, and the NRL/ Cowboys PR team arranged for his family to form a guard of honour as he ran onto the field. His dog was included in the guard of honour. An emotional Taumalolo rushed to pat and cuddle his dog (before acknowledging his wife and kids) and social media erupted with compliments for Taumalolo. They’re forgetting the time in 2016 that he was fined for throwing eggs at cars.

A dog’s breakfast

Cafes, beer gardens, picnic areas, barbecue areas, children’s playgrounds, sports grounds and beaches are overrun with dogs these days. Many of these places are officially off limits to dogs. In addition, most accommodation providers are pet-friendly, despite what PetCulture might think.

Strangely, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, when patrons are required to check in, socially distance and use sanitiser, muddy, sweaty, dirty dogs are still allowed to sit next to, or on, the furniture at eateries throughout the country.

Mobile dogs

Dogs have even found their way onto public transport. Guide dogs have always been permitted on public transport, as they should be. Now therapy dogs, or companion dogs, are allowed on buses trains and ferries across the country. Sufferers of mental health issues can now bring their dogs with them, and dogs of any breed, size or temperament can be therapy dogs. Subsequently, inefficient, overcrowded, slow and outdated public transport has been further compromised to satisfy the owners of dogs.

A trip to the Sydney CBD recently highlights the problem. Two young adults boarded an overcrowded bus heading towards the city centre. The tattoos, attire, cigarette breath, vocabulary and general demeanour of the pair suggested a troubled past and a fondness for illicit substances. The dog was some kind of Pit Bull, Mastiff, Bulldog breed – short, muscular and aggressive. It appeared agitated and nervous and its presence clearly concerned the people sitting close to it. As I pondered how this breed classifies as a ‘therapy dog’, I heard the owners say that it had recently become a therapy dog, and that they were taking it to the local shopping mall,

“…to get used to people…”

The couple soon alighted, leaving the bus with the overpowering stench of a sweaty dog.

Image: Gabriel Crismariu

Scott Morrison’s interstate passport idea criticised.

Residents of Bondi claim Scott Morrison’s interstate passport idea is an act of plagiarism. Locals from the popular beachside suburb believe the vaccination passport is a direct copy of the BPass, or Bondi Passport, which was floated as far back as 2015. The BPass would have controlled entry into the beachside suburb, just as the prime minister is attempting to control movement between states in reaction to COVID-19.

Morrison revealed the possibility of a vaccination passport for Australians wishing to travel across state borders in the near future, under a plan to open up the country’s economy while protecting the health of citizens. Bondi locals, meanwhile, are furious that Morrison failed to consult with them, or acknowledge their original idea, before announcing the proposal via one of his preferred media outlets.

“Scotty stole the idea from us,” declared a spokesperson for the suburb.

“The BPass was mentioned in an article in The Beast magazine in December 2015. Details of the Bondi Passport were even outlined in the article. It would have been an invisible tattoo given only to genuine residents of Bondi, and it would only have been identifiable through a Bondi Scanner (BS). It was a fool-proof system that would have protected the people and suburb of Bondi from unwanted elements whose presence would have damaged our patch of paradise.”

Morrison’s alleged plagiarism does not surprise those who live by the most famous beach in the country.

“Scotty does not have original ideas. He himself is nothing but a Liberal Party rebranding exercise, so this stance is expected. What’s more, the BPass is a great idea that should already have been implemented, and Scotty would have known about it in 2015, because he grew up just minutes from Bondi – even though he pretends to follow the Cronulla Sharks.

“Ironically, though, Scotty would never qualify for a BPass, I mean, look at him.”

Image: Craig Greenhill

Three superpowers in three weeks.

The Australian government has managed to upset three superpowers in the space of three weeks. Comments from the prime minister and senior minsters or staff have provoked negative responses from China, India and the United States, and the results could be very harmful to Australia.

China.

The threat of war. Senior government figures provoked China with comments about imminent armed conflict. Former Liberal minister Christopher Pyne, Senator Jim Molan, Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo, and even Defence Minister Peter Dutton made comments suggesting Australia is already, or will soon be, engaged in some form of direct conflict with China. In contrast, an article by Ewen Levick appeared in Australian Defence Magazine in March this year entitled:

War with China is not inevitable.

Average Aussies don’t know who to believe. They also might not understand the true motivation behind the comments, but China does, and Australia’s largest trading partner has already responded the best way it knows how – economically.

India

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australian citizens attempting to return to Australia from the COVID-19 hotspot of India could be issued massive fines or sent to jail. Many Australian citizens were born in India, have family in India and hold dual citizenship between the two countries. Australian citizens have access to Australia’s health system, and could be treated in Australia after completing mandatory quarantine, but they are being forced to remain in a country in the middle of a crisis, and are placing more pressure on India’s overburdened health system. This has not just angered Aussies in India and back home, but upset the government of India, which is battling to bring the crisis under control.

The United States

The Australian government set itself at odds with The USA when it refused to follow plans to reduce carbon emissions and protect the natural environment. New US president Joe Biden has publicly stated an ambition to actively reduce carbon emissions in the US in the near future, but Australia has refused to match these efforts. One specific policy which will harm Australia is the carbon tariff. The tariff, or fee, will be imposed on any goods being imported into the United States which have not been produced using more environmentally-friendly methods. Goods that are produced using fossil fuels will thus be worth less, and those businesses will lose money. The European Union is proposing a similar plan.

Ironically, this will adversely affect traditional Coalition voters, whose businesses will suffer due to the tariffs. Australia, rightly or wrongly, has a very close relationships with the United States, and cannot afford to alienate the superpower.

Upsetting other nations is inevitable in international diplomacy. Upsetting other nations is also justified if those nations are acting in a way that clearly contravenes the interests or the accepted values of the nation making the comments. China, for example, needs to be called out for its actions in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang. In this case, however, the comments are calculated, but careless, and are deliberately designed to appease specific sectors of the Australian population.

China. Anti-China comments appeal to the racists. Australia is a racist country, and anti-Chinese racism has existed since the gold rush in the 1860s. The Liberal National Party coalition taps into this anti-China sentiment because it is dependant on the votes of the country’s racist underbelly. Warning Australians of the threat of war is also a convenient way to justify enormous spending on defence, and observant commentators noticed that the comments were made close to ANZAC Day, which commemorates fallen Aussie soldiers and is the nation’s most sacred day. Ironically, however, the public comments about China have adversely affected trade with China and this severely disadvantages Australian producers of beef, wheat and wine, who would normally vote for the Coalition.

The USA. The prime minister rejected the US proposal in order to appease the fossil fuel industry. Australians are now cognisant that the fossil fuel industry owns the Coalition.

India. Racism, or damage control? Threatening to imprison Australian citizens returning from an Asian country is clearly racist, but the proposal could also be an attempt to save face. COVID-19 quarantine is ultimately a federal government responsibility in Australia, and it has been handled very poorly. The COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been even worse. Many Australians are staring to see through the government’s COVID-19 publicity stunts, so the threat to fine or imprison citizens could be an attempt to appear tough and decisive on border control and biosecurity.

Some of the Australians trapped in India have no Indian heritage. They are cricketers, chasing big money in the lucrative Indian cricket competition. A few of the cricketers have criticised the government’s stance. Will the words of some Aussie sports heroes be enough to the change the government’s stance?

For a government that is nothing but publicity, photo opportunities and marketing, this is a massive public relations faux pas. Will it persuade Australians to stop voting for the Coalition at upcoming elections?

Image: Aditya Joshi

Why are dogs allowed in cafes?

Dogs are as common in Australian cafes these days as smashed avocado and freshly-ground coffee. But should they be?

Diners adhering to the latest social trend pile into cafes with their four-legged friends and potentially threaten the health of cafe staff and other diners.

Surely, pet dogs present a threat to hygiene standards, particularly in an age of heightened awareness since the outbreak of COVID-19. While humans are now required to check in via an app, and to sanitise their hands, dogs are not. Dogs don’t sanitise their paws before their owners take brunch, and a lot of these dogs have come straight from the park or the beach where they have been rolling around in the grass, the mud or the sand.

Dogs have a seat at the table.

Many owners even set their dog on a cafe chair to eat and drink with them. The dog’s posterior, which may have recently ejected a dropping and has never seen a bidet, is thus placed on a seat which a future patron will occupy. Cafes wipe down tables, and clean cutlery and crockery, but I don’t remember seeing waitstaff wiping down a seat at a cafe.

How is this hygienic?

How is it allowed during COVID-19?

Pet dogs definitely present a threat to health and hygiene in areas of food preparation and consumption. For this reason, they are technically prohibited from public food preparation areas, such as communal barbecue areas at parks and beaches.

But my dog is clean

Owners will claim that their dog is clean. It gets washed, goes to the vet and is healthy.

How do we know that?

Cafe staff and other customers have to take the owner’s word for it. Every other person using that cafe has to trust that every dog is clean and not likely to threaten the hygiene and safety of the eatery.

We do it at home

Dog owners will argue that they let their dogs into their kitchens and dining rooms at home, and that they let their dogs eat from their floor or their dinner plates, or straight from their hands. They argue that it is no different to a dog eating at a cafe.

It is different.

Owners accept the risk of contamination when they obtain a pet. Owners know exactly where the dog has been before it enters the kitchen or the dining room. Owners know when the dog was last washed. Owners can also control their dog and stop it from doing soemthing that might threaten someone else’s health or safety. Strangers can’t. Dogs won’t automatically obey directions of a stranger, and dog owners often react with horror when someone else tries to control their precious pooch.

Maybe the current pandemic is an opportunity to remind people that dogs don’t belong in cafes.

Image: 2PhotoPots

Defenders of free speech are destroying free speech.

The very people who decry the loss of free speech in modern society are destroying the ability of people to speak freely. Extremist views stifle reasoned discussions on important social issues and this prevents problems from being properly addressed or solved.

Extreme commentators at both ends of the political spectrum complain that their opinions and right to free speech are being quelled in modern society, while their own words stigmatise anyone who attempts to raise legitimate questions regarding a contentious issue.

Free speech crusaders throw around phrases such as ‘political correctness’ and ‘cancel culture’ and complain that they’re “…not allowed to say anything anymore.” They claim that the ‘thought police’ are denying them their right to express a personal opinion. In most cases, however, those opinions are blatantly racist and are often disguised as humour and casual racism which is borne of ignorance, and is deeply hurtful.

It was never right to be racist, it was just more accepted.

Immigration

Immigration is a perfect example of the death of free speech at the hands of extreme commentators. Extremists have hijacked the issue, and anyone else who attempts to publicly discuss the topic runs the risk of being branded as a racist or a bigot.

Donald Trump used racism. He famously promised to stop Muslims from entering the United States and to build a wall to stop Latinos entering the country, and these views contributed greatly to his election victory in 2016. He expressed the views that many extremists held in the United States, and he discussed immigration as a threat to the USA, to white Americans and to American values and their way of life.

Extremists have equated immigration with racism and xenophobia.

It is consequently difficult for anyone to raise the issue of immigration in the United States and other countries. Anyone who questions current immigration policies, for whatever reason, will be labelled a racist or a bigot. But mature, intelligent and measured discussions about immigration need to take place. Leaders and citizens need to ask how many people can safely live in a particular area. People need to ask if a landmass has enough resources to support a certain number of people, taking into consideration birth and death rates, existing infrastructure, employment opportunities and other factors which determine the success of immigration policies. These discussions are made difficult or impossible due to the hijacking of the issue by ignorant extremists.

Donald Trump is also famous for shutting down discussions with people who opposed his views. There is no better example of killing free speech.

LGBTQI+

The LGBTQI+ community also bear the brunt of intolerance and hateful speech. Issues such as gender fluidity, trans culture and same-sex marriage draw endless commentary from free speech crusaders, and prevent issues from being discussed.

Same-sex marriage is a contentious issue. Every country which has raised the prospect of legalising same-sex marriage, including those which succeeded, endured a divisive debate on the issue, and the defenders of free speech once again destroyed free speech.

Two prominent Australians weighed into the debate in Australia. Tennis legend Margaret Court and footballer Israel Folau exercised their right to free speech but consequently tarnished the debate. Court and Folau opposed same-sex marriage, and declared this publicly. This in itself was not a problem. However, they supported their views with statements claiming that all gay people will go to hell, that same-sex attraction is the work of the devil and that same-sex marriage is a dangerous threat to the social fabric and the family unit.

Anyone else who expressed opposition to same-sex marriage was accused of sharing the views of Court and Folau. Anyone should be allowed to express an opposition to same-sex marriage, but that is difficult to do when the likes of Court and Folau dominate the topic.

Trans athletes also provoke strong debate. Should people who are born male be allowed to play sport with and against females – if they identify as female, or if they have physically transitioned to female? This is a complex debate including issues of fairness and safety, and any decision must be made after a mature, evidence-based and open discussion. This discussion is impossible to conduct when some people label trans people as the devil’s work, an abomination, a disgrace and subhuman. When such hateful views are expressed freely, reasonable people cannot express their views on the topic, for fear of being associated with the bigots.

Gender-neutral language also divides the population. Gender fluid people prefer to use the words ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’ and ‘them’ instead ‘him’ and ‘her’. A problem arises because they and them are plural pronouns, but they’re being used in a singular context – to refer to one person.

Linguists will point out that this is grammatically incorrect and confusing, while bigots will claim that is is outrageous, unnecessary…and worse. As a result, can anyone oppose the use of ‘they’ and ‘them’ to refer to individuals, without being labelled homophobic or transphobic?

Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the threat to free speech at the hands of those who claim to defend it. Anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists abound online and express views contrary to expert medical advice. Extreme bloggers and social media influencers, celebrities and even elected politicians are expressing wild and unfounded theories about the pandemic, while defending their views as free speech. In reality, they are putting human lives at risk.

Free speech is a foundation of democracy and an open society. It must be defended. It must also be conducted with evidence, acceptance of opposing views and reason.

Image: Christian Bruehner

Tobacco companies to pay for COVID-19 vaccine roll-out.

The tobacco industry will cover the cost of the COIVD-19 vaccine roll-out across the world due to the link between cigarette smoking and damage to human health. Wealthy cigarette manufacturers have until June 30, 2021, to pay the United Nations (UN) a levy, the exact amount of which will be set once the total cost of the vaccine roll-out is known.

“Cigarette smoking ruins human health,” began a statement from the UN and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“People with poor health have weak immune systems, and viruses survive in bodies with weak immune systems. If there are more unhealthy people on the planet, viruses such as COVID-19 are more difficult to prevent, control and eliminate. For that reason, the tobacco industry will pay for the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine, which will help protect the health of all citizens.”

The tobacco industry has reacted strongly to the shock announcement.

“This is an unprecedented and unacceptable imposition on what is a legal industry. Never before has one industry been forced to bear the cost of an international crisis, and the tobacco industry will fight this levy through the proper channels.”

The UN and the WHO, meanwhile, reminded the tobacco industry that cigarette smoking damages the health of smokers, non-smokers and the planet, and that the ongoing pandemic has reminded everyone of the importance of protecting the health and wellbeing of the world’s population.

The tobacco lobby also argued that other industries should also be forced to pay the levy.

“The justification for imposing the levy on the tobacco industry is that our products damage human health. If that is true, then fast food outlets such as McDonalds, KFC and Jollibee should also pay the levy, because consumption of their products leads to poor health outcomes.”

The UN explained that the fast food industry may also be charged the levy once the total cost of the international vaccine roll-out has been determined.

Governments throughout the world have declined to comment publicly on the decision. While they are expected to be pleased that someone else is covering the cost of vaccinating their citizens, they are wary of making any statement that might upset the powerful tobacco lobby.

COVID-19 vaccination has already begun in some countries, and the program will continue across the globe for the remainder of 2021.

Image: Julia Engel

It’s Over.

It’s over. Just like that. Anthony was in no way prepared for this. Something was certainly different when she first appeared that night, but it gave him no indication of the revelation that was to come.

He stared in silence for a moment and his mood sunk. He felt undeniably alone. He felt tears well up but he was too despondent to cry. He wasn’t sure how to react so he just went to bed. It was probably late enough.

“I sleep better when I’m depressed,” he’d often told himself. It’s not scientifically proven, but it made sense to him. When he was depressed a numbness replaced the agitation that otherwise kept him awake. The realisation that it was over drove him to seek solace in the covers and escape the cold winter evening.

At about 2pm the next day it hit him again. His one day a week in the office had so far distracted him from the heart-breaking news, but now it returned to haunt him. Normally the promise of an evening in would carry him through the final monotonous and arduous hours at work better than an afternoon caffeine hit, but not today.

It was at this hour that he would customarily gift himself a mental power nap, a brief daydream, as he pictured the scrumptious evening meal, the choice of dessert and the pure pleasure of “slipping into my trackies and ugg boots for a few blissful hours in your company.” Rain pouring on his roof enhanced the comfort that was always better shared.

“You don’t share my comfort, you are my comfort,” he’d always said.

Colleagues had labelled him mildly and harmlessly eccentric as he broke into random grins and light chuckles provoked by the memories of the previous night’s adventures. He hadn’t smiled today. The pleasant memories stored themselves in the recesses of his mind but would remain suppressed for quite some time.

He trudged to the break room and shoved some instant into a mug with too much sugar and some ‘girlie milk’ – no full cream left.

Today, pouring rain reminded him that he’d forgotten his umbrella.

Working from home would be even harder now. At first the idea had excited him. No more commute. Snacks and meals at arm’s length. No need to shave, no need to dress up. He’d reached a top score of 3390 in Solitaire; surely that was something to celebrate. But now the emptiness was omnipresent, taunting him in his open-plan living area with impromptu workspace. The single lounge chair looked lonelier than ever.

“I’m supposed to leave it all behind and move on,” he chided himself. “I have to accept that it’s over. It’s life. Nothing lasts forever, as myriad soppy love songs remind us. I should start dating again,”

But how does one date during a pandemic?

Social distancing is not conducive to romance. Flirtatious conversations in dimly lit restaurant corners are just a memory, and dancing is discouraged or banned – although maybe the latter is a bonus for Anthony.

What of the post-date?

Various scenarios run through Anthony’s mind.

He enters his unit with the lovely young woman. He offers her a seat and a drink. She relaxes in the lounge chair while he sits on the kitchen chair and the table renders them more socially distanced than in a restaurant or on public transport.

“Maybe I should paste on the lounge chair a green circle with “Sit Here” and a tick on it,” he suggests to himself.

The single lounge chair could, on the other hand, be a pretext for intimacy.

“We’ll just have to share,” he flirts.

“Or there is space for both of us on the bed.” In his wild imagination this sounds cheeky and charming. In real life it’s probably sleazy.

Self-isolation and

a wild imagination,

a dreadful situation and

a lethal combination.

“Loneliness is as unhealthy as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” claims the psychologist on the radio.

Anthony thought sitting was the new smoking and he reminds himself to stop sitting alone in cafes lest he be fined or kicked out. On that reasoning, his daily exercise routine is therefore redundant. Maybe there’s no point dragging himself out of bed on winter mornings to slosh through the mud and rain. It always boosts his mood and offers a great sense of accomplishment, but if he’s virtually smoking 15 ciggies a day, what’s the point?

The clock grinds towards 5pm and he prepares to walk home. Then he stops.

Why go home? What have I got to go home to? You’re not there, and his mind races back to the previous evening…

He’d sat in numbed silence. It had finally come to an end. You’re gone.

What do I do now?

He started at the screen

Play Season 1 Episode 1.

Bondi Beach closed to the public?

Bondi Beach was once almost closed to the public, and it had nothing to do with the COVID-19 pandemic. Australia’s most famous beach was nearly lost to the public as far back as the 1880s.

Bondi Beach did close for a period of time in 2020 when many public spaces throughout Sydney were closed, and after hundreds of people flocked to the beach during warm autumn weekends despite requests from health authorities to stay at home and stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The last time Bondi and nearby beaches had been hidden behind wire fences was during WWII. The mere notion of closing a beach incensed many Eastern Suburbs locals and fellow Sydneysiders, who regard beaches as an egalitarian sanctuary and a birth right to all Australians.

Their fierce reaction to the COVID closures reflects their emotional attachment to sand and surf. These feelings are put in context when considering that not even WWII closed Bondi. Military fortifications such as barbed wire, concrete tank traps, wire coils and iron stakes were installed on the golden sands, but swimming was still permitted. Swimmers at Bondi did have to negotiate a wire maze which was nicknamed the ‘rat run’, but they were not banned from entering the water in the 1940s as they were during autumn 2020.

Many swimmers must have regretted their decision to take a dip during the war, because Japanese submarines later breached a defence boom and launched bombs which exploded at Bondi, Rose Bay and Woollahra. Many swimmers were also rushed to Bondi Beach Public School first aid post to be treated for cuts and bruises.

Temporary closure

Short-term closures are not uncommon at Bondi. In August 2018 the beach was closed after the body of a whale calf washed ashore and had to be removed. The presence of the whale calf also increased the risk of shark activity and the sighting of the ocean’s apex predator will often close beaches.

Bondi lifeguards are cognisant of the dangers of big swells and strong currents after five people drowned and hundreds had to be rescued on February 6, 1938, which has since been known as Black Sunday.

Permanent closure

Whale carcasses, shark sightings and dangerous surf have closed Bondi Beach temporarily, but not permanently. A permanent closure almost came into effect in the 1880s.

The land around Bondi Beach was originally granted to road builder William Roberts as far back as 1809. In those days, Bondi was far from a tourist haven and an exclusive Sydney suburb. Limited access and transport meant that very few people ventured to the beach. Even in 1851, the beach was still sat a long way from the city, so Edward Hall and Francis O’Brien were able to purchase 200 acres in Bondi which encompassed most of the beach frontage. Modern-day Sydneysiders would die for such water views. The new owners named the land ‘The Bondi Estate’.

Perhaps this is the first recorded evidence of ‘Brand Bondi’

Between 1855 and 1877, O’Brien began buying sections of the estate from Hall, who was his father-in-law. Soon, O’Brien owned all of the land and renamed the area ‘O’Brien Estate’. Initially, the new owner was happy to share the property and the beach with the public and it became popular as a picnic ground and an amusement resort.

Then problems arose.

O’Brien felt that the beach and the surrounding area were becoming too popular and he threatened to stop public beach access. After much discussion among the people of Sydney, the Municipal Council contacted the government with the message that the beach must remain open to the public. As a result, Bondi Beach became a public beach on June 9, 1882.

The public were allowed to enjoy the beach, but it didn’t mean they would swim. In fact, daylight bathing was considered immoral and scandalous behaviour until the ban was lifted in 1903, and Bondi Surf Club was not established until 1906.

Since the tramway to the beach was completed in 1884, visitor numbers have increased year after year and Bondi is undoubtedly the most visited beach in the country. In 1929 it is estimated that 60,000 people were visiting the beach on any given Saturday or Sunday in summer.

Interestingly, Waverley Council currently faces another challenge to keep the entire beach open to the public. A business groups wants to establish a private, European-style beach club at one section of the beach in 2021, which would charge about $AU80 per person for entry.

While the private club would restrict entry to only about 2% of the famous stretch of sand, the proposal has divided opinion among Bondi locals and Sydneysiders. Some people believe the club will boost the local economy and add vibrancy to the space after the restrictions of COVID-19, while others claim that forcing people to pay to go to a beach is simply ‘UnAustralian’.

Sydneysiders will soon find out if they must once again fight to keep Bondi beach open.

Image: http://www.timeout.com

Great Public Schools Launch the Rugby Revolution.

The Great Public Schools athletic association is set to introduce the greatest revolution in Rugby Union since William Webb Ellis picked up the ball, after the organisation of Australia’s wealthiest schools granted itself permission to complete its sporting season during COVID-19 restrictions.

The GPS sporting association, which includes The Scots College, Sydney Grammar School and Sydney Boys High School, will play the first ever series of socially distanced rugby in the world. Spokesperson for the association, Richie Power, outlined some of the monumental changes to the sport and their likely impact.

  • No contact – Players may not pass within 1.5 metres of each other, even their teammates.

Rolling mauls will subsequently resemble an interpretive dance, and every line out will be won by the boy with the longest wing span. There’s no chance of hands in the ruck and scrums will become even more farcical than those in the NRL.

  • Try

The game they play in heaven will revert to its roots and tries will be worth 0, but earn the scoring team the right to ‘try’ for a conversion.

“If we awarded points for tries, we’d end up with cricket scores every game, and we know Rugby players can’t count,” explained Power.

Essentially, players cannot touch the ball or any other player with their hands, and can only advance the ball up the field with their feet. The end result will be…soccer.

  • Restricted spectators

Parents and Old Boys can follow the Rugby Revolution from Bellevue Hill to Parramatta. While spectators are prohibited from standing on the side lines, they can chant war cries from the comfort of their Range Rover, Rolls Royce or Bentley, or from their private yacht moored in Lane Cove River, after it has been collected from the Seychelles or Turks and Caicos.

Old Boys of The King’s School are exempt from any COVID-19 restrictions as the school has declared its sizeable territory a sovereign nation not subjected to the laws of Australia.

Critics have slammed the decision to allow the GPS schools to continue their regular sporting fixtures while others schools must still abide by COVID-19 restrictions, but Power defended the move.

“We paid a fortune for our scholarship athletes, sorry students, and we demand a return on our investment. If not, we’ll have to send them back to the western suburbs or an island in the South Pacific, or simply let them study, learn and improve their academic and employment prospects”

“In addition, we need to be able to channel our considerable government funding into extravagant sporting facilities and specialised coaches. Otherwise we’d be forced to give our Teachers such an enormous pay rise that they could finally afford to live within an hour of their workplace.”

“Without Rugby, we would just be public schools, and that’s not great.”

First published in The Beast Magazine, October 2020.

Image: http://www.greenandgoldrugby.com