Holy Skyscrapers Batman, This Isn’t the Mardi Gras!


Image: Adrian Warren

Everyone loves Melbourne. Everyone in Melbourne anyway. Give me Sydney any day, says Roderick Eime.

In 1996 Melbourne was still under the temporary spell of Jeff Kennett when a motley bunch of liberal powerbrokers and commercial heavyweights wrested the phenomenally popular Australian Formula One Grand Prix from Adelaide. The city of churches had for ten years been the darling of the Formula One circuit when the South Australian capital pulled out all the stops to entertain and impress the world.

Like stealing candy from a contented baby, bully-boy Melbourne snatched just about the only thing Adelaide had going for it on the world sport stage. Smug and satisfied, Kennett and his marauding cronies were busy admiring their prize when F1 team Williams and major sponsor Rothmans decided they would make a television commercial to celebrate the new venue.

Location scouts scoured the austere landscape of Melbourne in search of an iconic setting for their blockbuster production. It took them a while, but in the end, the desired, unmistakable, vista was found: the Sydney Harbour Bridge!

Anybody who has spent time in both cities will nod their head knowingly. Melbourne can brag about their cappuccinos and electric trams, but stack Sydney Harbour up against Port Phillip Bay and the southern example begins to look like a giant settling pond.

Crikey, take the Yarra for example. People think you’re trying to make a joke when you call it the world’s only upside down river. If only they could make their cappuccinos that colour.

And, if you’re traveling to Melbourne, whatever you do, don’t mention the football. Mexicans (Sydney-siders like to call Victorians that on account they are all south of the border) claim to have invented Australia Rules Football (AFL). Well true, they did plagiarise the ancient sport of Gaelic football brought in by the Irish and call it their own, but now it’s more of an embarrassment. In the last ten years, only two Melbourne teams have won the AFL grand final. So each year, tens of thousands of real footy fans from Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide have to hike down to Melbourne to watch their teams win because of some dumb contractual arrangement that still imagines Melbourne as the home of Aussie Rules. In truth most Melbournians just wish the whole thing would go away.

Now don’t start! Sure, Sydney may have staged the greatest Olympics Games since Zeus tossed a discus, but Melbourne did a really fine job of the Commonwealth Games. Honestly, a delightful little event. I hear the city is being considered for an encouragement award. That’s the spirit.

Now Melbournians just love to look down their noses at Sydney, or for that matter, anywhere else in Australia. They gloat endlessly about the shopping, dining and culture but their road system is so bewildering, the city’s tourism motto even says dejectedly: “Lose Yourself in Melbourne”.

Oh yes, poke fun at our world famous Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Will someone tell me what there is to celebrate about a ‘Moomba’? And Sydney is supposed to be somehow ashamed of its convict heritage. At least we weren’t founded by a DC Comics character with silly ears and his underwear on the outside!

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