Politicians, Sport, and Hypocrisy

I have always enjoyed playing sport. I swam, (competitively into my teens), played netball, hockey, basketball, volleyball, underwater hockey (yes, it’s a thing), and water polo. My husband played rugby union, AFL, and did athletics. Our kids swam, and played a variety of team sports.

But since COVID-19 came to town, there has been one thing that’s very clear. It’s that sport gets breaks when no-one else does.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I live in Australia, and we are incredibly fortunate, thanks in the main part, to our politicians listening to the actual science, and then acting on it. But they have a blind spot, and that’s sport.

Way back when the early lockdown ended, and we cautiously poked our heads outside, sport got a free ticket to reopening, when arts didn’t, and government initiatives had windbacks heralded. It started with Rugby League (or the NRL for short) being able to return to playing in COVID bubbles. Of course, to have a successful bubble, you have to have trust in the people within the bubble. And seriously…football players? Fortunately, Australia has had relatively little community transmission (except for that moment in Victoria, and the more recent one, which is still going on, in Sydney), so the expected, and actual breaks in the bubble didn’t really lead anywhere.

AFL had a bubble. (Australian Rules Football.) Cricket has had a bubble. The Premier of NSW even let a cricket match – with spectators – go ahead in the middle of a community transmission moment. Fortunately, the spectators were reduced, and then reduced again, and then required to wear masks, and some were excluded dependent on where they lived etc. But you can see a pattern.

While the rest of us do our distancing, wear masks if directed, and lockdown as required, sport gets special exemptions.

We recently had a case of COVID-19 of the UK strain escape from hotel quarantine in QLD. There was an immediate 3 day lockdown, and as a result, the national cabinet agreed to halve our current number of Australians returning home from overseas. But…we still have the Australian Open (tennis) going ahead in Victoria. It involves chartered flights, special considerations, and the importation of 1200 or so tennis players, officials, support staff and others coming into Australia.

And, surprise, surprise, COVID cases are coming in, and people are being isolated. The players aren’t happy.

What really annoys me, is the hypocrisy. We’ve halved our returns of Australians overseas. Yet we’re importing international tennis players. On chartered flights, no less. And some are pushing the rules designed to keep them, and our country, safe from imported COVID.

And of course, because we’ve reduced our cap on people coming home, some airlines are reducing or ceasing flights here, which adds to the difficulty of people getting back.

Look, I understand that some people don’t get why some Australians haven’t already returned, but you have to remember that some were on job swaps, others had loved ones die, or become ill. Others were studying. That’s the kind of thing that happens. Most still waiting to come home weren’t on holiday. (Do holidays actually exist anymore?)

So, Australian politicians, what is it with your obsession with sport? Why is it that sport gets exceptions to rules when other things don’t. Why does sport get financial assistance, when people who work in the arts, for example, don’t even qualify for JobKeeper? Or JobSeeker?

Rant over. Probably.

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