Friday, April 13, 2018

How a weightlifter changed my mind on the Commonwealth games

I'll admit it, I've been dreading the Commonwealth games coming to the Gold Coast. Not the actual competition and achievement part, more so the impact that it'd have on my day to day activities and my commute to work.



Then halfway through I watched a Fijian weight lifter completely change my mind on things.

There were plenty of warnings in the wake of the games too which kicked off my impending 'this is going to be an interesting couple of weeks, potentially not in a good way' radar.
-Roughly a month out they dropped the speed down 10kmh from 110 to 100 on the M1 to make traffic safer. Trucks could now only use the first two lanes of the M1.
-Games lanes started to appear on various parts of the Gold Coast. As first I thought they were purely decorative until ads appeared explaining that they were for games vehicles, permit holders, emergency vehicles and officials. Not for aging silver turbo wagons going to and from work.
-More and more of my usual parking spots near the beach started disappearing as signs explaining that they too were reserved for games vehicles only

We had meetings at work about the fact that our building was right in the middle of the officials zone and that we were taking extra steps to keep everyone safe during the middle of such a massive public event (very valid thoughts for 2018) and so as they games kicked off, our security increased. No longer was I the only person in the building during certain hours during the night as there was now at least one security guard keep tabs on the place.
I got my own business lanyard too - just in case I was stopped anywhere near work and have to explain who I was and what I was doing there. (Thankfully that never happened - I did feel pretty special with my own name around my neck though!)
Any staff that wasn't working late at night (mainly me) had their hours changed to 7am to 3pm instead of 9am to 5pm to avoid getting jammed into potential games traffic. They found spots for paid parking - they really went above and beyond to make sure we were safe and informed.

And so the Commonwealth Games finally kicked off, many on the Gold Coast made a mass exit with fear of getting gridlocked, the buzz of excitement completely drowned out the grumblings of everything changing around us for at least a day and over one billion people tuned in to watch the opening ceremony (where I really thought John Farnham would appear after strands of 'You're the voice' started to build up in the stadium, but no.) The Games were on ...and my biggest concern was bracing myself for a three week stay in traffic just to get home.
Which...thankfully never happened.

My route to and work changed but it wasn't a massive detour. I stayed well and truly out of the Games Lanes and it wasn't nearly as chaotic and the council first thought. The only time I hit anything resembling teeth gnashing and wailing traffic was 5 minutes away from work so the slow burning road rage didn't get half a chance to ignite. I solved my 'Where the hell am I going to park now' daily dilemma by using the breakfast announcers park in the basement parking long after they had left. So we adapted just fine and the games action continued around me with barely a flicker on my radar. 

Until one day while waiting for something to cook in the work microwave and finally watching a games event for more that just a passing glance, I saw the truly awesome Eileen Cikamatana in action. I was watching the 90kg women's finals...and I was gobsmacked.



Because she didn't just clean the 130kg off the floor, she ripped it right through the air like she should be in comic book form instead of standing in the stadium. I couldn't help but cheer out loud when she effortlessly and I mean effortlessly got it to her shoulders. It was like watching Superman's daughter from Fiji put on a brutal raw strength clinic for the world to bow down to. She made the first part look so incredibly easy. She got it over her head long enough to secure Gold and danced like crazy when she threw the weight down, the announcer explaining that she had now landed Fiji's 4th Commonwealth Gold medal EVER. What a monumental feeling that had to be!
And here's me, very rarely getting emotionally involved outside of the one time in my lifetime when I got to see my AFL team win a grand final, finding myself absolutely getting swept up in the victory emotion and wishing I was part of the massive cheer at the venue when she scored the win.
I'd high five the TV if I thought no one was watching. What a brilliant effort from this incredible 18 year old.

Since then I've had a couple more indirect games moments that have made me more than happy to have them hosted here in my backyard, regardless of the relatively minor hiccups they've caused me in the lead up.

-I watched an Indian boxer (I forget his name but possibly Satish Kumar according to Google) dance his way to victory. Not literally, there were plenty of punches thrown, but his movements were captivating and it made for a very entertaining three rounds for a sport I barely absorb.

-I read about the Aussie runners in the 10,000m who hung about after the race to cheer on the runner in last place and help her get over the line. She'd been out lapped, outgunned and all the others had left the track at the time but the three Aussie girls stayed there until she made it and gave her a hug. That is just pure class right there. I'm getting an incredible sense of pride just writing about it and I wasn't even watching! 

This is the definition of a feel good moment. 
Of course it hasn't been all plain sailing for everyone involved - you've had athletes who have tried to defect to Australia (why not, have you seen our beaches?), the controversy surrounding the New Zealand female weight lifter who was once a man, the coach gropeing one of his athletes, the protests going on, the silly place where they put the giant Gold Coast lights sign (effectively in the middle of the freeway where no driver could actually see it) etc etc.
But on a whole? Well done.

Well done to the moments of class, the triumphs of an 18 year old making her country proud, the country getting proud of out long distance runners, the feel good unforgettable moments.
And congratulations on finally getting the attention of a guy who has been attempting to avoid the whole shebang since the get go. Call me a fan now (I didn't buy any tickets to any events though) and pat yourself on the back...but I'm still looking forward to parking in my usual spot by the beach when the smoke finally clears ;)

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