Sunday, 28 December 2014

Cycling and Architecture: A Very Strange Notation!

Picture by Linda Meacham
 This is Flinders Street station as it stood last Sunday morning when Linda and I and my mother and father wandered by it whilst in Melbourne. It is one of the great iconic buildings of Australia, it's majesty only tempered by the eyesore of Federation Square which is very inappropriately placed directly opposite the station.

 Sometimes, when gazing upon modern architecture such as the aforementioned Federation Square my mind can only wonder, "what the hell were they thinking!?"

 I didn't bother staining the memory card on my camera by taking a picture of the building in the square with it's odd shaped facade and myriad of bright colours which are thrown across it's surface as if a giant incarnation of Pro Hart has come to life and attempted to perform his own signature method of painting upon it's walls. I don't like it.


  I can only gather that Federation Square was designed as a focal point and gathering place for people in Melbourne City and I must say it seems very popular with large crowds gathering there to partake in all sorts of activities which no doubt add to the community feel of the central business district. But why design and build such a new age structure directly across the road from a classic building such as Flinders Street Station?

 Melbourne is a great town but it city centre does seem to be a mish mash of the old and the modern and it doesn't always meld together as it should. Perhaps I am being harsh and anyone reading this is welcome to counter my point of view but at times I think there is not a lot of thought put into how the city will fit together when it's various pieces are conjoined. I am a classicist and much of the modern architecture we see today leaves me cold. Would Paris council erect a structure such as we see in Federation Square across from the Eiffel Tower? I doubt it.

 I really don't know what I am talking about but it is my opinion for better or worse.

 I was in Melbourne briefly for the running of the 117th Austral Wheelrace, the pre-eminent track handicap cycling race in Australia which was held at Hisense Arena at Melbourne Park, a stone's throw from the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The sporting heart of Australia.

 Track cycling, once a vibrant and unique discipline in Australia has deteriorated as a result of tardiness and ignorance perpetrated by the ruling bodies of the sport in this country and although there are still a few famous track handicaps left in Australia the numbers of participants willing to ride them are dwindling due to lack of care and disinterest. All the youngsters coming through the ranks of the sport nowadays want to be Cadel Evans not Sid Patterson.

 The old amateur  federation dogma which dominated the cash-less ranks for nearly a century which was aimed at producing top riders for international and overseas events to the detriment of the perceived "also-rans" who were in reality the backbone of the game, seems to have overwhelmed the old professional way of thinking since the two sides of the sport, amateur and professional were combined in the early 1990's.

 The professional attitude was one of attempting to provide racing for bike riders, no matter your standard and the very egalitarian system of handicap racing ensured that everyone in theory had a chance to win. Archaic to modern ears of course when winning is everything and if you are not a heavy hitter then your welfare and interests don't count. But we will still take your money for a license fee thank you very much!

 The old ways still survive in minutiae with the Austral Wheelrace being one of the last few professional classics to be raced on the track but it was sat very oddly among the very elite and specialized disciplines of Keiren racing and the Australian Madison Championship which of course only attract the best riders and are an enigma to the average punter on the street.

 The heats of the Wheelrace were run in an empty stadium earlier in the afternoon and the matinee program was finished before the arrival of the large crowd which swelled the stadium for the evening session which began at 6.30pm.  No half mile handicap, just a heat of the Austral and a scratch race for your entry fee. You would think some of the old hands at Cycling Victoria would have more of an idea on how to run such a promotion.

 So, it's fair to say, although entertaining as track racing invariably is, I was disappointed with the promotion and felt it left a lot to be desired.

 Track cycling at all levels needs to be nurtured and a place for the lesser lights maintained via handicaps and graded scratch racing. The modern notion of grooming top riders for overseas teams and road racing can survive alongside our traditional Australian track racing.  But I won't hold my breath for the men who control Australian cycling to lend their weight to such a thought.

 That is my rant for the night, architecture and cycling and how I can do it better! Hope I haven't put you to sleep too early.

 Have a nice night.

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