The Guardian • Issue #2085

Playing with your money

A Guardian exclusive

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2085
Tennis ball and racket.

The Australian Open feels like a juggernaut these days, with a remorseless publicity pile-on and a lot of media attention. Melbourners can’t go far without seeing a bus, tram, or billboard reminding them that the Open is on and is apparently very exciting.

Lecturer in Sport and Australian Studies at Monash University, Dr Tom Heenan spoke with Guardian. He says the Open is a financial juggernaut too, leading to a wholesale handover of public money and land to private developers, and an attack on job security.

Dr Heenan has researched blockbuster sporting events for some time, looking at the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games and the Grand Prix, and he’s noticed some common patterns.

One is the appropriation of land that supposedly belonged to the people of a state – as with a large park in Albert Park being handed over to the Grand Prix association.

Tennis Australia is set to get control of the whole of the publicly-owned Olympic Park area in Melbourne. “What comes next” says Dr Heenan, “is usually retail and apartment blocks.” He cites the example of the Los Angeles Olympics, which led to the corralling of poor people and the redevelopment of the downtown area blocks away from Skid Row, the poorest part of California.

Financially speaking, Tennis Australia is doing very well for itself on other people’s money. The sports organisation got $103 million in two lots from the Victorian State government. Now $43 million of that has been waived by the Victorian government, after the head of Tennis Australia met with state treasurer Tim Pallas.

Total expenditure on Victoria Park comes to one billion dollars expenditure for a two-week event.

The publicity “taps into a sense that we’re a natural tennis playing nation – we’re not actually that good” explains Dr Heenan. He also says that large sporting events can lead to massive casualisation in work – what he calls “a barista economy.” Most of the people employed by Tennis Australia for the Open won’t have jobs two weeks later.

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