Monday, April 07, 2008

Paradise a hell on wheels

My subtropical paradise was turned to hell on wheels over the weekend; Port Macquarie hosted the ‘Ironman’ competition.

We live uneasily with a local brigade of these extreme athletes, some live and train here, on a daily basis. This competition draws hard core competitors from around the world.

I don’t begrudge them their choice of activity, each to there own. Though swimming, cycling and running for up to 14 hours does seem a bit extreme to me.

The problem is this type of activity requires a self centered focus which denies the rights of every other human.

Hundreds of brick solid egos pitted against each other is one thing, against the wider community. The rest of this community consists of a heavy balance of retirees, with health/aged care being a major industry here. Under normal circumstances older citizens are forced off the footpaths by these joggers and cyclists, Ironman takes over the lot.

The big race was Sunday but problems really began Friday with some competitors doing their own unofficial time trials. That meant a stretch through the busy CBD totally mindless of other road users and pedestrians in their focused efforts. The ignorance and arrogance was staggering.

The race began around 6:30 am Sunday, with the last runners still coming in after 9 pm, obviously anyone wiling to swim, cycle and run for that long must be totally self focused. The course was closed off for the competitors, which is fair enough, with co-operation we can al cope with a one day event.

The spectators were behind barriers were constantly encouraged to cheer competitor. Pedestrians were herded on to narrow walkways, shared by marshals and volunteers as focused and heedless of the ordinary pedestrians as the competitors had shown themselves to be.

If that overflow of elite arrogance wasn’t enough to trigger a little pedestrian rage, the competitors, in their protected course, were doing their own bits of rage. Twice, as spectator groups cheered passing competitors I saw cyclists stop by excited groups telling them to “shut your fucking mouths!” Cute loveable people these elite sportsmen.

The event is justified by the $8 it brings into town each year. I’m inclined to doubt even that paltry windfall, but if they want special treatment these athletes should be taxed separately to pay for construction of special routes for them. They obviously have no concept of shared space.


lindsaylobe said...

Community sport; civilized, usually thoughtful and non invasive is much more likely to be respectful and supportive to the communities in which it operates. The antithesis to professional elite sport. I think we place far too much importance on elite sport, in its funding and emphasis in Australia. More people at any time attend arts compared to sport but if an art event was staged such that it involved continual processions, music and actors sprouting verses such that you couldn’t even walk along the footpath there would be an almighty hue and cry. As you say through necessity elite sportspeople have to be totally focused on themselves and hence the industry can become a breeding ground for self centered individualism. Fortunately the majority is not affected in that way, and many make significant contributions to their community. But I agree the idea of staging an event which takes over an entire town is completely unacceptable.
Best wishes

D.K. Raed said...

I can't imagine what would cause that kind of response from the ironmen to the cheering onlookers ("shut your f*cking mouths")! Being self-obsessed as they are, they should've been preening from all the attn. I'm starting to suspect the onlookers weren't exactly yelling hearty cheers. I guess that big $8 doesn't go far in compensating for days of closed roads and other inconveniences.

Cart said...

Lindsay, there has to be balance.

D.K. I think some of the competitors get so charged up they simply react to any distraction. It's that rage thing that seems to be the current trend.