Melbourne is rightly the world’s sporting capital

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

By Glenn Mitchell, Glenn Mitchell is a Roar Expert

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    In the words of Kevin Costner, “If you build it, they will come”. In the case of Melbourne nothing could be more accurate.

    Last weekend I took my ten-year-old sports mad son to the Victorian capital.

    It was a first for both us – he had never been there before and neither had I in a non-working capacity.

    For over two decades I travelled regularly from Perth to Melbourne as a broadcaster and commentator.

    Last weekend I went simply as a punter.

    And it was in that capacity that I really came to understand just how well Melbourne caters for the sports fan.

    For a city that has not staged an Olympic Games in recent times its facilities and the grouping of them is something that exceeds almost all other cities around the world.

    The main sports precinct, and its proximity to the CBD, provides the city with a cluster of venues that are the envy of every other city.

    While Sydney, post the 2000 Games, has the legacy of Homebush it is totally disconnected from the heart of the city.

    One of the great selling points of Melbourne’s major sports venues is the proximity to the city, and by extension, all the benefits that provides by way of ancillary entertainment and facilities.

    Nowadays, for many attending a sporting event is more of a full-day experience.

    The trend is for patrons to often bookend the main event by calling into restaurants, cafes and bars.

    Melbourne, in that regard, provides the perfect experience.

    The walkway from the MCG into the Southbank entertainment precinct – built in 2006 for the Melbourne Commonwealth Games – allows ready access to and from the ground and provides the ability to move tens of thousands of people in a smooth and timely manner.

    It also deposits fans at Flinders Street Station for ease of egress from the city.

    Likewise, Etihad Stadium provides easy pedestrian access to the heart of the CBD.

    As for the venues themselves it is hard to fault them.

    Few stadia in the world can match the MCG as a sporting amphitheatre.

    Thanks to constant, high-cost upgrades it has kept up with the times with respect to what the 21st century fan wants.

    In its shadows is Melbourne Park, which once again, is being continually upgraded through a multi-year $700m investment.

    Most years the world’s tennis elite list the Australian Open as their preferred major tournament when it comes to amenities, transport and accessibility.

    Within the complex is three indoor arenas headlined by the 15,000-seat Rod Laver Arena which doubles as a concert and major event venue for other indoor sports.

    Hisense Arena can be easily converted into a world-class velodrome as it was for the 2006 Commonwealth Games.

    In the same precinct is AAMI Park, a purpose-built 30,000-seat rectangular sports stadium which hosts both domestic and international events.

    Having so many first-class venues clustered in one area less than a kilometre from the CBD is unlike any other city.

    On top of all that there is the Formula One street circuit and the Spring Racing Carnival which is held across three top-flight venues.

    The thing about Melbourne, and what sets it apart from not only other Australian capitals but also myriad other international cities, is the fact that it has had for many decades a coherent and well thought out facilities development and upgrade program.

    Currently, there is debate over two separate plans to further enhance the major sporting amenities within the city.

    Collingwood FC president Eddie McGuire has publicly floated a $1billion plan that involves demolishing Etihad Stadium and building a new 60,000-seat, retractable-roofed stadium alongside the MCG.

    The AFL meanwhile has proffered its own plan for a $300m revamp of Etihad Stadium which would include open-air bars, restaurants and parkland around the ground.

    If neither of these proposals get up, you can be rest assured that one will emerge that will be accepted and implemented.

    In Perth, a 60,000-seat stadium is currently under construction and from March 2018 will be the home ground for the Eagles and the Dockers as well as selected international cricket fixtures and the BBL and other sports events on a needs basis.

    The new Perth Stadium is long overdue with areas of Subiaco Oval affected by concrete cancer while some of the seating comprises the old wooden bench style that went out of vogue at most venues decades ago.

    For over 25 years, successive governments and sporting bodies have tried to reach agreement on the future stadia requirements for the city while over that period band-aid measures have been undertaken at both Subiaco Oval and the WACA Ground.

    The result has been a sub-standard experience for the city’s sports fans.

    While the likes of Perth have trod water and argued back and forth about what is required, Melbourne has continued to push forward systematically and created world-class facilities.

    Forward thinking, effective planning and the ability to bring competing groups together has helped maintain Melbourne’s status as a city which sees sport at its core.

    Globally, few can match what Melbourne has achieved.

    The venues are up there with the best in the world and that is evidenced by the throngs that turn out every week to utilise them.

    If any city deserved to host a future Olympics it is Melbourne.

    The bulk of the infrastructure is already there including most of the transport requirements.

    That can be said about few cities in the world.

    By head of population it is questionable as to whether any other city has the multi-sport passion that Melbourne has.

    In terms of facilities, events and bums on seats Melbourne is, in essence, the sporting capital of the world.

    Nobody does it better and it is doubtful Melbourne will take its eye off the ball anytime soon, making the fans the big winners.

    Glenn Mitchell
    Glenn Mitchell

    After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.

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    The Crowd Says (72)

    • Roar Pro

      June 30th 2016 @ 5:59am
      Mike Huber said | June 30th 2016 @ 5:59am | ! Report

      Top Article

      Throw in Melbourne’s golf sand belt , The Spring Racing carnival and Moomba – and you have a city unmatched anywhere in the world for events . The golf courses are the best in the world, horse races richest in the world and Moomba the most elite water ski/wakeboard event . Jump in your car and cruise down the coast and you find the oldest and most revered surfing contest in the world at bells beach . Or head the other way and hit the best motor GP circuit in the world at Philip Island .

      I have lived in three other places/countries – UK, USA and Europe – None of them combined could amalgamate respective cities to match Melbounes infra-structure and array of events . It is a colossus of a city and unequivocally the sporting capital of the world .

      • June 30th 2016 @ 8:31am
        spruce moose said | June 30th 2016 @ 8:31am | ! Report

        There’s hyperbole and then there’s this.

        Philip island as the best circuit in the world? Only if the world is the size of Victoria. Try bathurst in Australia, and spa for the world’s best.

        Melbourne golf courses are exceptional, but no one would put coin on them being the best in the world.

        It’s comments like these that actually devalue a very enjoyable article.

        • Roar Pro

          June 30th 2016 @ 8:45am
          Mike Huber said | June 30th 2016 @ 8:45am | ! Report

          Melbourne has historically ranked as having the best courses in the world the last 50 years by Golf Digest .

          Royal Melbourne’s composite course is always ranked in the top 10 courses in the world . It sat at number 3 for decades ranked by PGA pros . Kingston Heath, Victoria, Huntingdale , The Metropolitian , Yarra Yarra , Commonwealth – all revered as the games best !

          Tom Watson, Ben Crenshaw , Fuzzy Zoller and Greg Norman to name a few put Royal Melbourne as No 1 .

        • Columnist

          June 30th 2016 @ 8:57am
          Glenn Mitchell said | June 30th 2016 @ 8:57am | ! Report

          I think you are a bit harsh Spruce in your assessment of Melbourne’s golf courses. In a recent issue of the international magazine, Golf Digest, two Melbourne courses were ranked in the top-21. Royal Melbourne was at number 9 and Kingston Heath at number 21. Not too many cities boast two courses in the top 21 globally.

          • June 30th 2016 @ 10:18am
            spruce moose said | June 30th 2016 @ 10:18am | ! Report

            Glenn,

            I think you will find I said they are ‘exceptional’ – I’m fairly sure you’ll agree that that is a very positive comment.

            • Columnist

              June 30th 2016 @ 10:51am
              Glenn Mitchell said | June 30th 2016 @ 10:51am | ! Report

              You also said that they would not be rated within the top courses in the world which they actually are.

              • June 30th 2016 @ 11:10am
                spruce moose said | June 30th 2016 @ 11:10am | ! Report

                Depends on your definition of top.

                Personally, I’d go with top 5. Or courses that hold major events.

                But, they aren’t the “world’s best”. One is. That’s just hyperbole.

        • Roar Pro

          June 30th 2016 @ 9:00am
          Mike Huber said | June 30th 2016 @ 9:00am | ! Report

          I think Casey Stoner would know more about bike circuits than you.

          If you had been to Phillip Island you would know that the only circuit to rival it is the Grand Premio in Italy. The Italian circuit is located in Tuscany , arguably the most beautiful place in all Italy.

          Bathhurst is an Aussie gem, but does not have the scintillating views or outright excitement of motor GP .

          • June 30th 2016 @ 10:27am
            spruce moose said | June 30th 2016 @ 10:27am | ! Report

            I’ve been to Phillip Island many times. And your comments are based purely on Motorcycle racing? Yikes, that’s a long bow to pull.

            I stand by my comment. Bathurst is the superior course. It has the fastest corner in the Australia, the longest straight in Australia, the largest vertical difference and it is a staggeringly difficult course to master. Make a mistake, and you’re race is over. Only Monaco and it’s even tighter walls is the equal in terms of difficulty. Arguments over scintillating views are very subjective based on whether you like sea or country. I don’t particularly mind either way.

            And even then, it doesn’t hold a candle to courses such as Spa, Monza, Suzuka, and Laguna Seca.

            I agree that Melbourne is the sporting capital of the world, but aside from the MCG, there is no other piece of sporting infrastructure that could claim to be the “world’s best” in any particular sport.

            Take the blinkers off.

    • June 30th 2016 @ 8:00am
      Ken said | June 30th 2016 @ 8:00am | ! Report

      Melbourne has envious infrastructure and I think everything builds from there. Compared to Sydney’s Moore Park & Homebush precincts – which both have major location flaws, Melbourne’s facilities are mostly a cut-above and far better located. It does make going to sport in the city a joy – although my perspective is as a tourist staying in town so it’s probably the best case.

      For all that I admire it though, funnily enough sport is one of the reasons that would make me reluctant to live in Melbourne. Overwhelmingly the attention is on AFL and it’s just not my game.

      Don’t get me wrong I appreciate the big annual sports events that Melbourne has, but few of them actually interest me. I’ll watch a little bit of Tennis, golf and horse racing on TV but I don’t truly care about them. I’ve been to the F1 a few times, but travelling interstate for it is half the fun. Cricket at the MCG is great, but basically negated by the option of cricket at the SCG. The sport I mainly go to see live is League, and Melbourne just doesn’t have much of it.

    • June 30th 2016 @ 8:01am
      Glen said | June 30th 2016 @ 8:01am | ! Report

      London could make a decent claim – probably better than Melbourne. Melbourne haven’t had the Olympics for over 60 years.

      London – transport infrastructure including the tube. Dozens of professional football teams, pro teams in many other sports, Wimbledon, NFL events.

      Plus stadiums – Wembley, Emirates, Stamford Bridge, Twickenham and so may others. Lords – home of cricket.

      • Columnist

        June 30th 2016 @ 9:05am
        Glenn Mitchell said | June 30th 2016 @ 9:05am | ! Report

        Fair points Glen. The disappointing thing about London is that their two cricket grounds – Lord’s and The Oval – have a combined seating capacity of just 56,000.

        • June 30th 2016 @ 9:32am
          jamesb said | June 30th 2016 @ 9:32am | ! Report

          Well, to follow that logic, the disappointing thing about Melbourne is that their rectangular stadium, AAMI Park, only has a capacity of 30,000. Melbourne doesn’t have a large rectangular venue.

          • June 30th 2016 @ 9:44am
            Milo said | June 30th 2016 @ 9:44am | ! Report

            Doesn’t need one when you can easily convert MCG or Etihad for rectangular purposes. MCG had 95000 people singing you’ll never walk alone a year or so ago when Liverpool played Victory.

            • June 30th 2016 @ 9:48am
              jamesb said | June 30th 2016 @ 9:48am | ! Report

              Yeah sure, but venues like the MCG, you are ‘miles’ away from the action.

              • June 30th 2016 @ 9:56am
                Milo said | June 30th 2016 @ 9:56am | ! Report

                Ive watched rugby at Etihad a couple of times (wales & france) and I can tell you its as good as any rugby stadium (eg AAMI) for viewing.

              • June 30th 2016 @ 10:28am
                spruce moose said | June 30th 2016 @ 10:28am | ! Report

                Milo, that’s just not true.

                Go to Suncorp. Go to Wembley. Go to Twickenham.

              • Columnist

                June 30th 2016 @ 1:47pm
                Geoff Parkes said | June 30th 2016 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

                Not a chance Milo. Etihad is awful for watching rugby. As is the MCG.
                AFL grounds are patently unsuitable.

        • July 1st 2016 @ 3:06am
          english twizz said | July 1st 2016 @ 3:06am | ! Report

          You get 15 days of test cricket a summer in london

      • June 30th 2016 @ 9:33am
        Milo said | June 30th 2016 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        London golf? London GP? Stadia are small, transport outside the tube is ridiculous and Wimbledon is not better than Melbourne Park for amenities and viewing (altho no question on atmosphere & history).

        • June 30th 2016 @ 3:11pm
          spruce moose said | June 30th 2016 @ 3:11pm | ! Report

          What London stadium is small?

          The 90,000 seat Wembley? The 80,000 seat olympics stadium? The 75,000 seat Twickenham perhaps? No, it must be the 60,000 seat Emirates that is small.

          And on transport…you are quite right, outside the tube it is fairly ordinary. Much like anything in Melbourne that doesn’t run on rails either.

          • June 30th 2016 @ 5:27pm
            Dean said | June 30th 2016 @ 5:27pm | ! Report

            Not many of the London grounds are centrally located and even the centrally located ones don’t have much surrounding them which was a main focus of Glen’s article. Twickenham and Wimbledon are in the middle of suburbia, Ascot even further out.

            There are lots of football stadiums but not much else. Lords was a disappointment and the steaming tube didn’t help.

            The fact is that a day out at sport in Melbourne is a Melbourne event. Central streets are packed with team colours. A day out at the sport in London is a series of train trips to and from your point of origin with not much else in between. Just a day at the sport.

            That’s why Melbourne’s investment has been so well done. It leverages the sport to boost the city, not the city to boost the sport. It pays off economically.

            Doesn’t matter how big AAMI Park is if it’s hosting Wallabies v England, the biggest match on this years’ sporting calendar outside the Melbourne Cup and Grand Final. I’m surprised the public holidays for each weren’t mentioned. It’s one of the first things I boast about when talking sport in Melbourne.

            • July 1st 2016 @ 5:07am
              english twizz said | July 1st 2016 @ 5:07am | ! Report

              Melbourne only has 3 studiums for how many teams

    • Roar Pro

      June 30th 2016 @ 8:34am
      Mike Huber said | June 30th 2016 @ 8:34am | ! Report

      London would be the only city to rival claim however, it is only soccer, cricket, rugby , tennis centric . Wembley is to far out of London and located in a very high crime ridden borough . Wimbledon although great simply doesn’t have the range and class of facilities the Australian open offers .

      Also Melbourne boasts the best sports museum in the world at the MCG – astonishing amount of historical relics for every sport ever played bar American sports .

      • July 1st 2016 @ 4:44am
        melbourneterrace said | July 1st 2016 @ 4:44am | ! Report

        “Also Melbourne boasts the best sports museum in the world at the MCG – astonishing amount of historical relics for every sport ever played bar American sports .”

        Please. For an AFL and Cricket homage it’s great but for a “National Sports Museum” it’s dreadfully under represents nearly every other sport in the country. The Wimbledon and World Rugby museum at Twickenham are far better with modern displays these days anyway.

        • Roar Pro

          July 1st 2016 @ 12:12pm
          Mike Huber said | July 1st 2016 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

          You must have had to many pimms old boy as the MCG museum is better than both thos museums combined – by a country mile !

      • July 1st 2016 @ 6:39am
        Gnasher said | July 1st 2016 @ 6:39am | ! Report

        A bit harsh about my birthplace! Wembley’s undoubtedly a scruffy place, but it’s completely safe.

        • Roar Pro

          July 1st 2016 @ 12:21pm
          Mike Huber said | July 1st 2016 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

          You are obviously being facetious !

          I worked in mental health and substance misuse in Wembley and as a borough it had the highest proportion of crack heads in town ( London).

          It was indeed a den of inquity !

    • Roar Guru

      June 30th 2016 @ 8:43am
      mds1970 said | June 30th 2016 @ 8:43am | ! Report

      Top article Glenn. And as a frequent sporting visitor to Melbourne, I agree. To have so many great facilities within walking distance of the city makes attending sport in Melbourne easy.
      So much easier than Sydney. Living in the west, getting back from Moore Park can be a shocker – either walking the Foveaux St hill or the Spiral Bridge to Nowhere. And if you drive it takes an hour to get out of the car park. Olympic Park is easier, but ANZ Stadium has its own issues.

    • June 30th 2016 @ 9:40am
      Milo said | June 30th 2016 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      Thanks Glenn
      Totally agree.
      Melbourne is also the most liveable city in the world (3 years in a row) which rounds this off nicely.

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