God or Juan Antonio Samaranch may have found in Australia the perfect country for the Olympic Games. When it comes to sport, Australia seems like a benign, sunnier and drug-free East Germany. Somewhat isolated and with a relatively small population, Australians love their sports like a devoted Commie loved his Marx.
So obsessed are they with sports that even today Australians claim the No. 1 national hero in their country's entire history is Don Bradman. Don who? No, Bradman didn't lead Australia to political independence (in fact, Aussies still bow to Britain's Queen Elizabeth) or fight off the Japanese during World War II. Rather he was a spectacular cricket player in the 1930s and '40s. It's rather like comparing Babe Ruth with George Washington.
That level of adoration for jocks has important benefits for many of today's Australian Olympians. They are rock-star popular and millionaire rich. Only the Australians are quite unlike the Communists of East Germany Australia has just the right mix of cynicism and adoration when it comes to the Olympics, and all of it in a perfect setting of bright blue skies and state-of-the-art facilities. TV and radio are also chockablock with stinging parodies of the self-important International Olympic Committee and Australia's own representatives. Everything from lost bus drivers to drug-positive athletes are grist for the Aussie media.
It's also an almost absurdly friendly place, and the locals at this point at least are patient and welcoming to the swarms of gawking visitors. There has been blanket coverage of even the most minute detail, for example, the trek of the Olympic torch as it winds its way across the country. Even before the opening day, the Olympic Park where most of the important venues are located was overrun with thousands of visitors, just regular Australians wallowing it being the center of the world sporting universe. On Thursday night, 90,000 people showed up to watch the dress rehearsal of the opening ceremony.
Maybe the Olympics will never move again.