The fact that Australia needs to debate whether it’s acceptable to promote gambling on a national icon suggests it should really know the answer already.
In a country that gives children days off school for horse races, gambling has become as endemic as suicidal marsupials on country roads.
And anyway, who says it’s a reflection on Australia’s cultural decline that a building created to showcase The Marriage of Figaro, The Barber of Seville and The Merry Widow is being used to promote The 3.30 at Randwick?
There may be 5000 missing in an Indonesian earthquake, global warming threatening the planet and a dangerously unpredictable dictator with silly hair and a finger on the nuclear button (and Kim Jong-un), but nothing fires up Australians more than a few needles in strawberries, the status of the Brooke Blurton-Nick Cummins relationship or the alleged misuse of the Sydney Opera House.
It became such an issue this week that even the man who runs the country joined the debate.
And after Alan Jones came Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
In a nutshell, Racing NSW proposed using the sails of Jørn Utzon’s most famous creation to advertise the $13 million Everest horse race.
When Opera House chief executive Louise Herron pointed out this was against the landmark’s charter, 2GB broadcaster Jones demanded she reconsider or else he would call in NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to make her reconsider.
In a shock development, Premier Berejiklian intervened by making Herron reconsider and suddenly opera fans across the world were broadening their horizons by learning about Redzel, Vega Magic and Santa Ana Lane instead of Rossini, Beethoven and Mozart.
The controversial move exposed something of a difference of opinion.
Who says it’s a reflection on Australia’s cultural decline that a building created to showcase The Marriage of Figaro, The Barber of Seville and The Merry Widow is being used to promote The 3.30 at Randwick?
“It’s not a billboard,” Herron insisted about the Opera House.
Morrison responded: “This is one of the biggest events of the year. Why not put it on the biggest billboard Sydney has?”
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore came down on the “not a billboard” side of the debate.
“This is blatant commercialisation of Australia’s world heritage listed Opera House for an industry notorious for damaging gambling and animal cruelty,” she said.
Fortunately, there was an independent voice of reason available to clear it all up.
“There is no way this is devaluing the Opera House,” said Paul Toole, NSW Minister for Racing.
Architect's son says "My father would have been sickened by it ... he would not have condoned advertising on the building in any way, lucky he's not around to see the desecration of our beautiful iconic masterpiece," he said. #SydneyOperaHouse@Peter_Fitzhttps://t.co/PsLOXTCCdPpic.twitter.com/VpsQ6MLLWs— Ozesurfer (@Ozesurfer) October 7, 2018
Those defending the move pointed out that the UNESCO World Heritage Site had previously been used to project Rugby Australia’s logo and the message “Go Wallabies” before the 2015 Rugby World Cup and an image of The Ashes after Australia's cricket wins over the Poms.
Surely it was merely being used to promote sporting achievement, in much the same way as the Eiffel Tower was decorated with an image of Zinedine Zidane when France won its first World Cup in 1998.
Morrison even wanted to take things a step further and use the Sydney Harbour Bridge to advertise sporting events.
Personally, I don’t think that goes far enough.
Phar Lap’s nickname was Big Red so why not permanently project his image onto Uluru?
The Big Banana and Big Pineapple have had their day. Time for The Big Winx.
The flying kangaroo logo of Qantas is looking a bit dated, surely better to have a race horse?
No fair dinkum Aussie wants the Union Jack in the corner of our flag when we could have the TAB logo.
How about bank notes with the Sports Bet logo instead of Edith Cowan? After all, she was a social reformer who worked for the rights and welfare of women and children, what better way of demonstrating the fruits of her labours than by encouraging women and children to gamble?
And why should those children have to learn a national anthem featuring such words as “girt” that they will never use anywhere else when they could be practising such educational alliteration as “Up to 50 bucks back in bonus bets”? Much more useful in adult life.
Really the problem here was not the promotion of horse racing or gambling, it was merely the choice of subject.
Since the Opera House is synonymous with powerfully voice female singers, it could be permanently adorned with the image of a Diva. Preferably of the Makybe variety.
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