Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sizzling Hot

Adelaide continues to sizzle this week - though not with hot sporting events within and around the city but scorching record 40-plus degree temperatures. The furnace-like temperatures across most of South Australia and Victoria started early this week on Australia Day. In Adelaide, Australia Day temperatures maxed at 36.6°C and soared yesterday to 43°C to be the hottest day in five years in the city.

Today's maximum temperature in the city of 45.7°C was likewise one for the record books. Yet no cool change is in sight with a forecast of a 6-day run of 40deg-temperatures. A similar weather forecast holds for Melbourne, where the gripping final games of the Australian Open are playing out. As the grand slam tournament is typically held in the middle of the Australian summer, the games are noted for its hot days. Thus, it is the only major tournament in the world that has an extreme heat policy. Melbourne's temperature soared to 41°C today which called for the policy to be enacted for the first time.

It was fortunate that last week's Tour Down Under in Adelaide experienced relatively milder temperature conditions which were ideal both for the cyclists and spectators.

2009 Tour Down Under, Adelaide

I shared in the 'Lance Fever' that gripped the city. The record attendance to this year's tour events, up by 35% from last year, was certainly due to the Armstrong factor.

In the final Stage 6 of the race held in the city, I was one of the 144,000 spectators who lined the Adelaide streets despite the sweltering 35°C heat to catch a [g]Lance of perhaps the biggest name in the sport - essentially a brand. Apparently, this record number represented the most for any single sporting event in Australia. Not knowing anything about professional cycling races, I amazed even myself that I patiently stayed for the whole 18 laps of the stage just to be able to take a picture of Lance Armstrong. My patience was wonderfully rewarded at Lap 16 when I eventually captured the images I wanted:

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong and Team Astana

Of course, with full cognition, these images were to be had at a price - painful sunburnt arms! Livestrong!

Karen Cheng did an enlightening interview with Lance Armstrong and sheds light on what motivates this great athlete (as seen in Shai Coggins).

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

America's Renewal

This is the headline of paper version of this morning's The Australian as Australia woke up to a new US President. As I watched the evening news earlier, even halfway around the world, I can feel the euphoria of Obama's historic inauguration and its place in history.

Among the best articles I read today is from the foreign editor of The Australian, Greg Sheridan's thought-provoking article (p1), "Throwing off the chains of history":

From slavery to the US presidency; from shackles to the Oval Office; from laws banning inter-racial marriage barely a generation ago to the son of an inter-racial marriage running the place today.

From segregated drinking fountains and classrooms and public utilities to the most powerful nation in the history of the world placing its faith in an African-American to lead it in troubled times. The transformation in the status of African-Americans is surely now complete.

This is truly the stuff of history. And the history is not at all so long ago. Former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Colin Powell recalls in his memoirs driving to a base in the south and being unable to use the bathrooms at the service stations along the way, because these facilities were not available to coloured folks.

Of course, once this celebration is over we should really forget Barack Obama's skin colour. Martin Luther King's dream was that all of us should be judged by the content of our character, not by the colour of our skin.

But just as, a generation ago, Irish Catholics felt immense pride at the election of John F Kennedy - the first Catholic president - so too now we can feel immense pride in Obama's achievement in reaching the most powerful office in the world.

And here's another thing: to fall in love with Obama, as the world is showing every sign of doing, it is necessary to fall in love with America.

For the world to fall in love with America all over again is entirely a good thing, and is just as it should be. Every good element in Obama's life comes from his hard work and talent, but also from the normal workings of American society.

In America, talented people from all types of backgrounds reach the top if they work hard - ask Condoleeza Rice or Powell, two black US secretaries of state.

Obama's background - a multi-racial childhood in Hawaii - is as apple pie American as any other background. A good mother, devoted grandparents, the best private school in Hawaii, the American meritocracy finding a way to get the young man to two of the finest universities in the world - Columbia and Harvard - and this is not bizzare aberration in America. This is the way America works.

The hopes invested in Obama are too great for any human being to fulfil. Our cynical secular age belives in almost nothing now except the authenticity of ethnic identity, and in the Obama celebrations they have found an excuse for an orgy of identity celebration.

At the end of the day, Obama will still have to grapple with intractable problems. Can his immense prestige bring Israeli and Palestinian together, stop an Iranian nuclear bomb, revive the American economy, pay for universal healthcare?

Yet the secular sainthood to which the normally cynical secular culture of the West has elevated Obama does indeed contain the seeds of genuine new hope.

These past eight years have been so difficult in part because a large section of American, and international, opinion never accepted the legitimacy of the George W Bush presidency. He stole the votes in Florida, they held. He spoke in terrible Texan accent. His brand of evangelical Christianity was all wrong. But no one in the world - except perhaps al-Qa'ida and the government-sponsored demonstrators in Tehran - disputes Obama's legitimacy, not just as president of America but as a kind of secular pope.

Here's another profound trick. Obama has kept most of the policies - and a startling number of the people - from the heart of the Bush administration.

Millions of people who six months ago hated the US will now be doing what they can to help a Washington administration succeed in the world.

That is the dawn of a bright new day, and a remarkable sign of America's resilience, and perhaps the world's last, best hope.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

DownUnder sizzles

Around this time of the year, in the middle of sizzling summer, Australia is abuzz with premier sport tournaments. Starting with the Boxing Day Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, the Commonwealth Bank Series: Australia vs South Africa Cricket and of course, the smorgasbord of tennis tournaments - Hopman Cup (Perth), Medibank International (Sydney), AAMI Kooyong Classic (Melbourne), Brisbane International and highlighted by the Australian Open in Melbourne which is the first of the four grand slam tournaments in world tennis.

Which direction?

Adelaide will not miss out on these premier sporting events. Last week saw the first World Tennis Challenge (14-16 January 2009) at the War Memorial Drive. This week, however, is perhaps one of the biggest events - the first pro-cycling race of the year, the 800km Tour Down Under. This year's tour is made much more special because of Lance Armstrong's participation as his comeback race. The cycling tournament kickstart the week-long event today with the 51km Cancer Council Classic Race at Rymill Park right in the heart of the city. Armstrong maintains that he will not win his first race after over three years of hiatus but I'm sure with race fever gripping Adelaide, he will be a sight to see. I hope to watch Stage 6 (Adelaide City Council Circuit) of the race on the final day of the tour - hopefully catch a glimpse of the bike with number 1274 and perhaps photos of the amazing sportsman, his team - Astana and all the other Australian and International riders in action.

Last but not the least and capping this exciting week will be the Cricket Test: Australia vs South Africa on Australia Day, 26 January.

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Seize the day!

Happy New Year!

Happy 2009!

It's time again for the annual 'taking stock of things' and of looking forward to what's in store for the new year. I'm sure a good number have already drawn up those ever-present lists (to do, wishlists and goals) for the year.

As for me, regardless of how 2008 was (certainly with milestones accomplished, memorable moments and likewise a fair share of lows and frustrations), in my 'annual review', I resolve to make the most of each moment 2009 will bring - armed of course with those lists of wants and goals. In looking back over the last year, I found that I've let a number of things slip by that I missed out altogether. I guess, as with everyone else, in staying focused on specific things I get this tunnel vision that more often than not I've become so oblivious to what was going on in the bigger picture.

Having focus in attaining goals does not preclude the necessity of living in the present moment. Good advice, huh? I thought so too. I heard this a few weeks ago and it's been at the back of my mind since that along with my 'lists' for the new year, I've written down a reminder to be alert and not to let opportunity pass me by - CARPE DIEM!

Have a wonderful 2009 everyone!

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