Flat White

Sydney, you can take your Opera House and…

12 October 2018

7:17 PM

12 October 2018

7:17 PM

As a member of a rather sizeable group of Australians who don’t live in Sydney and are not precious and obsessive tools, I’m of a strong opinion that everyone should just shut up about the Sydney Opera House being used as a screen to project an ad for a horse race on. That this outrage oxygen thief has been seemingly the number one news story in Australia for close to a week now boggles the mind.

Honestly, people, don’t you have anything more important to worry about? Have all the economic and social challenges facing our nation been suddenly vanquished so we can all be doctors’ wives now and get into a tizzy over not even a first world problem but a one-percenter problem?

As is generally the case, The Nailing Waleed Aly has been my last straw, or perhaps the last nail:

The Project host Waleed Aly has accused a handful of leading Australian politicians and radio veteran Alan Jones of having vested interests in horse racing ahead of the staging of The Everest on Saturday at Royal Randwick.

In a scathing assessment on national television, Aly was highly critical of those who backed the move to advertise the lucrative horse race on the iconic Sydney Opera House sails at Circular Quay.

In a piece to camera, Waly described the controversial lighting up of the sails on Tuesday as a ‘deal that had already been done without any input from normal people.’

‘The point is, this place belongs to all of us and if you flog them off to the highest bidder you tear up the fabric of a city,’ Mr Aly said.

‘The politicians on either side just can’t see what the fuss is about.

‘In the community we might have differing views on the Opera House, but if we don’t realise that co-opting our most famous national icon to promote a big money horse race that didn’t even exist two years ago was always going to piss off a lot of people, then you would have to be seriously out of touch.’

Look, Sydney’s fabric has now been torn because of a horse race ad. Poor Sydney. Poor fabric. Maybe if “this place belongs to all of us” everyone should just leave it alone? I don’t recall the controversy about this:

The sails of the Sydney Opera House will be illuminated to mark the passing of marriage equality into law in Australia.

Minister for the Arts Don Harwin said the important milestone in the nation’s history would be celebrated on Friday night, lighting up the sails of the iconic building.

“The passing of this law by the Australian Parliament after a ‘yes’ vote in the postal survey is a powerful message that same-sex relationships are regarded as both equal and valued,” Mr Harwin said.

“I feel proud that Australia has embraced the idea that the celebration of love and the institution of marriage belongs to all of us.

“Tonight’s illumination is particularly powerful because of the strong public support for same-sex marriage shown by many of the resident companies based at the Sydney Opera House.”

Or this:

The late Aboriginal artist Lin Onus hoped his art would create “some sort of bridge” between Indigenous and European cultures, yet it is unlikely he would have imagined his work flying across the sails of the Sydney Opera House every sunset.

From Wednesday night, Mr Onus’ work, along with four of Australia’s most eminent First Nation artists including the late Minnie Pwerle, will be projected every night at sunset and 7 pm on the World Heritage building’s eastern sails to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land.

Or this:

In a spectacular celebration of Australia securing both the women’s and men’s Ashes this summer, Cricket Australia has lit up the sails of the Sydney Opera House in a dazzling display overnight.

The world-famous landmark was bathed in green and gold tonight, with both the Ashes urn and the Women’s Ashes trophy taking centre stage, following Australia’s Test win to wrap up the Magellan Ashes Series at the Sydney Cricket Ground yesterday.

Australia now holds both Ashes trophies, the first time they have done so since 2003.

The Opera House sail lighting was a celebration not just of the performances of the men’s and women’s Australian teams but also of the incredible support shown by cricket fans across the country.

The fact that one is a commercial display and the others are political, cultural and sporting statements should make no difference, and neither should the fact whether the decision is popular or not. Consistency, please; if the Opera House, or Copulating Turtles as I prefer to call it, is some sort of an untouchable sacred place then it shouldn’t be used for any displays. For the record, I don’t give a toss either way – light it up with whatever. Personally, I think that a Coca-Cola sign would look pretty cool. As would The Daily Chrenk logo.

As for Waleed, I can think of many things that are more damaging to urban social fabrics, for example rampant crime. Maybe we should display African gangs on the Sydney Opera House so that Aly starts taking them seriously.

Arthur Chrenkoff blogs at The Daily Chrenk, where this piece also appears.

Main illustration: Mitchell Library.

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