Monday, July 21, 2008

The Pope and The Dope

First to The Pope...

We've just come out of a thing called World Youth Day here in Sydney. World Youth Week is probably a more correct moniker though, as it did seem to extend for more than a simple Day.

From dozens of youths gathered at bus stops about my area, climbing onto buses with scraps of paper with billet addresses on them, to the posters on every church, school and spare skerrick of advertising space, World Youth Day has been going for months really. The Pope came in on Thursday, staying at a nice little Opus Dei centre, before partaking of his duties and celebrations.

Road closures started on the Saturday night for the Sunday mass at Randwick Racecourse, something the punters and horse-folk alike had been lamenting, fighting, and ultimately compensated for. Out of Government coffers, of course. You can’t expect the Catholic Church to pay for putting other people out. The Pope said mass for the masses, and this morning was leaving the country bound for...some other place.

This morning the deputy Premier was stating on the radio that the whole thing was a 'huge success', as the images of Sydney would have gained worldwide exposure amongst the Catholic world. The airport is expecting a very busy day as thousands of pilgrims fly out, not bothering to look around at the city and its environs after coming for mass. I fail to see how it’s boosted our image. I'm sorry, but if you didn’t know where Sydney was, or seen any images of it prior to coming for WYD, then you aren’t likely to come for any other reason.

I wonder how much of a windfall WYD has been for the state? The Church asks the state to shut a racecourse for them, compensate the people put out by the event, had roads closed and traffic diverted, and no doubt put one heck of a bulge in the infrastructure.

If you're one of the richest organisations in the world, can't you be expected to pay for the cost of mounting some of the event?

The splinter groups and outsiders wanted a say, and it seems the church is a veritable goldmine for controversy. The 'annoying pilgrims' law that was passed created a fair hoo-ha, but doesn’t seem to have been used, except maybe a few odd times. The pictures on the news of three people dressed as giant condoms handing out condoms in a churchyard was a little overt. And the sexual abuse groups demanded the Pope's personal apology for the previous sins of the church-appointed priests. You can’t be responsible for everyone in your organisation, and there comes a time when you've just got to distance yourself from some people. You can apologise, but you wont undo what others have wrought. If your faith is that strong, then be assured that the abuser is bound for downstairs, and your own selves, by forgiveness, are going to the man up top with all haste.

And now for The Dope...

The Tour de France is on again, and entering week two we've already had four or five guys busted for EPO in various states. One team has withdrawn because of it, after winning three stages in their colours. Another is down to 4 riders through doping and injury.

But, that said, its still exciting to watch the guys you believe are clean. An Australian, Cadel Evans, leading for a handful of days. Another Australian, Simon Gerrans, winning a stage overnight. A Manxman winning 4 stages in one edition through a thunderous turn of pace. Frenchmen, Italians, Australians, Spaniards and Belgians all out front, showing the international flavour the race enjoys.

A loose crank arm derailed my own Tour de Parkway on Sunday afternoon. It makes me wonder how much these guys train, and the array of doctors and legal drug assistance that the riders have to make the 21-stage race in the times they do. Sure, anyone can ride for 6 hours, even through some discomfort, but to do it at the speeds they do, and for 21 days out of 23 is an amazing feat.

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