The Nong Olympics

Friday, 13 July 2012

On Thursday night Australian time, the 11th stage of the Tour de France saw the riders hitting the Alps and Cadel Evans slipping behind.  Despite a well-timed breakaway attempt, he was caught up by the Sky racing team with Bradley Wiggins looking all sorts of solid and resolute and steady and stuff. 

But still, there is always hope.  Because ~ trying to rein in my romanticism and mushiness ~ there is something about Le Tour de France that instils hope in this crusty old wintery soul.  Despite the drugs.  There is a humanity about the Tour that I think has a whole lot to do with aerial shots of French chateaux, and the crowds of people cheering alongside the road.  The tons of parked campervans.  Even the nong factor.

Thursday night was your standard nong fare.  A guy in a Santa suit.  Another in a Cher-inspired seatbelt number that – thankfully – was accompanied by a flesh-tone bodysuit underneath.  And then there were the Aussies in their AFL guernseys – a Hawthorn supporter, a Richmond supporter and a Geelong supporter, all running for a little while alongside the riders who were regaining their breath on the flat bit before the next 11 degree gradient bit.  The three Aussies ran alongside the riders for their place in the nong-relay sun before the next nongs further ahead took up the invisible baton.

Which is good for them to do it over there, because they simply cannot do that sort of thing here.  Somebody might get hurt. 

Once, when the AFL was not as professional as it is now, those three supporters would have been able to run onto the ground after the game finished.  Which is what happened after every single game, a swarm of duffle-coated kids flying over the fence to run onto the G and have a bit of kick to kick with their footy.  But not now.  If our three Aussies at the Tour ran onto the ground after the game these days, they would be fined up to $21,000 for their misdemeanour, enough to fund a good portion of their romp in the French summer sun.

According to the AFL and the MCG, when you are professional the people who come to watch the game must be treated with suspicion and paranoia from the time they enter the ground after having had their bags searched, to the reminders on the scoreboard to report bad behaviour to an SMS number, to the security people walking around at any one time, to the time they leave. 

Which is why, when a young guy ran onto the ground after last Friday night's Collingwood-Carlton game, nobody batted an eyelash about the possible over-reaction of seven security guards and one policeman all swooping on this guy like a rugby scrum.  

It was a weekend of ground invasions.  There were two people the night after as well, at Etihad Stadium.  It was surmised that perhaps it was a full moon at the time (it wasn't).  I personally think it was more the effects of the Tour than the moon.  People with strange notions in their head about getting amongst it.  One woman, with a bible, a crucifix and a bell, walked along the boundary line, chatting with TV boundary rider Cameron Ling and other officials, before people began realising she shouldn't be there.  Another man ran onto the ground during the game and made it to the centre of the pitch before being tackled by security. 

Despite the fact that all of these people have been arrested, and will be fined several thousands of dollars each, St Kilda coach Scott Watters believes security should be increased, before something bad happens to the players.  I can't help wondering what the Tour riders would think about that, sharing their stadium as they do with the general public along almost every stretch.  But nevertheless, the AFL must consider player security.  Apparently.

After all, think about those millions of incidents that have gone on in the past with AFL or VFL players being injured by fans.  Oh, okay - not millions?  Okay, then, thousands.  Not thousands?  Tens, then.  No, not tens.  None.  There is no recorded incident ever of a spectator injuring a player when running on the ground.  Not even in the days when hundreds of people did it.  Not even now.

But fear is not about the past, is it?  Fear is about what could possibly happen in the future, and what we need to protect against by using force and control and security.  Even if it makes the atmosphere much colder for the spectators partaking in the sport.

That's why watching the Tour is such a contrast.  It's all so deliriously chaotic.  People clustered on the side of alps.  Riders rushing down inclines who could quite easily run off the side of the road (and who sometimes do).  And the nongs.  People making idiots of themselves just for the hell of it.  Because they can.
The organisers of the Tour are just a little more lightened-up when it comes to security, a little less paranoid, and the AFL from inside its bubble could probably do with a bit of a think about that. 


  1. Can you translate 'nong' for me, Sue?:) I wouldn't go to any 'sporting event'  where such brainless paranoia reigned... Vive La Tour de France!:D

  2. I love how The Urban Dictionary defines it:   "in Australian slang, nong is used as a pretty mild and/or endearing
    insult. a bit of a twit, or idiot. nothing too mean or horrid is meant
    by calling someone a nong."

  3. Thanks, Sue. I could've looked it up myself, of course, but I prefer a human translator:) So, they're fining folks for just being a bit silly... I'd stand no chance then;)

  4. Interesting post, thanks Sue. 

    "People clustered on the side of alps. " 

    I've watched long coverage of the Tour on a sports channel, not recently but some years ago, it was like when you get off a boat and the ground beneath your feet feels like it is still rising and falling.  The movement through those mountains and the people, it stays with you for sure.

  5. I love the TDF, and the mayhem of the mountain stages is certainly one of the reasons. I'm pulling for Evans 'cause I think Wiggins is a bit of a wanker.
    Your writing is consistently good, and I'm enjoying reading you.

  6. Not so sure that Evans will be able to climb the mountain he needs to climb to get there, but there is still hope!  :)

    Thanks so much, Brad.  It's really encouraging having you say nice things about my writing when I just got another rejection-by-email :)

  7.  Now, if *that's* not spectator participation I don't know what is :)  It does stay with you, doesn't it.


Newer Older