‘ The open­ing cer­e­mony at Car­rara Sta­dium was brighter than the weather.

New Zealand Listener - - TV REVIEW -

Awet night on the Gold Coast of Aus­tralia!” cried TVNZ 1’s Peter Wil­liams from the Com­mon­wealth Games open­ing cer­e­mony. As the Al­ter­na­tive Commentary Col­lec­tive’s Matt Heath ob­served on TVNZ’s Duke chan­nel, “It ap­pears to be piss­ing down.”

Still, noth­ing could dampen the mad­ness of another Games open­ing ex­trav­a­ganza, not even the bar­rage of hip­ster dad jokes from the col­lec­tive. When things got dull, there was the suspense of lis­ten­ing to them pull them­selves back from the brink of an ill-ad­vised gag about the Queen’s Ba­ton.

Open­ing cer­e­monies: who could for­get Matilda, a sort of mo­torised wink­ing mar­su­pial Dalek, at Bris­bane 1982. “Matilda’s pouch dou­bles as a door,” in­toned the com­men­ta­tor, “and inside some 20 chil­dren …”

This cer­e­mony ad­vanced the less-scary propo­si­tion that life is a beach. Cue some young surfers, one in­ex­pli­ca­bly eat­ing a ba­nana: “Ever think that, like, right now, bil­lions of miles away, there could be a bunch of aliens, ly­ing on a cos­mic beach …?” Hopes of a full-scale alien in­va­sion of Car­rara Sta­dium were soon dashed. In­stead, we hur­tled back in time 335 mil­lion years for a lot of tec­tonic plate-shift­ing and an old bloke – God? One of the col­lec­tive haz­arded it was Rolf Har­ris – hold­ing a glow­ing globe. “From here you can’t see bor­ders. No bar­ri­ers built to di­vide us …” Nice, if fan­ci­ful.

Prince Charles and Camilla were there look­ing, it was ex­ten­sively noted, sullen. A photo of Camilla flick­ing list­lessly through the pro­gramme went vi­ral, as did an in­evitable wardrobe mal­func­tion, not Camilla’s. Dur­ing a trib­ute to that great Aus­tralian rit­ual, get­ting your togs off be­hind a towel, a dancer in­ad­ver­tently flashed her un­der­clad pos­te­rior. She was a good sport about it. “Last night I was feel­ing re­ally bummed … butt that’s all be­hind me now!” went a cap­tion on her In­sta­gram.

Miss­ing in ac­tion: Borobi, the blue koala and Games mas­cot, and John Farn­ham. The col­lec­tive re­fused to give up hope, spec­u­lat­ing that the iconic Aussie rocker might ap­pear, like a child from the belly of Matilda, from the vast in­te­rior of the show’s float­ing white whale, Mi­ga­loo, who rep­re­sented the unity of all life or some­thing. But no.

Bored roy­als, pretty, pot­ted ver­sions of the his­tory of hu­mankind … You might ar­gue it’s all hope­lessly lack­ing in con­tem­po­rary rel­e­vance. Yet this cer­e­mony had some­thing to say about a chang­ing world as it beamed from the beachy play­ground of a coun­try that re­ally could use some change. The in­dige­nous cul­tures of the coun­try – Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Is­lan­der – were front and cen­tre. Yugam­beh el­ders Pa­tri­cia O’Con­nor and Ted Wil­liams wel­comed the world. It was the first event of its kind, it was re­ported, to have a Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Ac­tion

Plan. The roy­als found them­selves be­ing blessed in a to­tally im­pres­sive smok­ing cer­e­mony per­formed by Yugam­beh Abo­rig­i­nal artist Luther Cora and his fam­ily.

Mean­while, out­side the sta­dium, there were protests against the “stolen­wealth games”. But the changed cul­tural dy­namic inside the sta­dium was pow­er­ful enough to en­rage the usual di­nosaurs. Pauline Han­son once again demon­strated that any sen­tence be­gin­ning “I have got noth­ing against the Abo­rig­i­nal people but …” is go­ing nowhere good. “I’m sick and tired of be­ing made to feel that I’m a sec­ond­class cit­i­zen in my own coun­try,” she de­clared pre­pos­ter­ously.

Later, Yugam­beh spokesman Rory O’Con­nor took her down with a few facts: “Out of 4500 people on stage that night, less than 300 of them were in­dige­nous. Of 150 min­utes of per­for­mance, less than 20 min­utes was in­dige­nous.”

For Pa­tri­cia O’Con­nor, the cer­e­mony rep­re­sented “an ac­knowl­edge­ment of the truth of our past, the power of our fu­ture and an op­por­tu­nity to stand to­gether united.” Out­side, the pro­test­ers were high­light­ing how far there is to go on that score. But it was worth watch­ing the open­ing to see some­thing that looked a lit­tle more like that ac­knowl­edge­ment; to feel the tec­tonic plates shift­ing just a frac­tion.

The Games’ open­ing cer­e­mony: a small shift.

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