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I’m not sure what was more impressive, Roger Federer or Melbourne

Watching Roger Federer play tennis is on the bucket list of most human beings. Why wouldn’t it be? Class and talent of the highest level, combined with a charming personality, will always draw people from far and wide.

 

With so many flawed characters and pantomime villains competing for our attention in the public sphere, the good ones stand out.

 

My two girls are lucky enough to have ticked Roger off their list at quite a young age and I will be constantly reminding them of that privilege throughout their lives. One day, they will get it.

 

Mind you, he doesn’t come cheap, a $650 day awaited us at Melbourne Park and despite the price tag, we weren’t let down; with the Swiss putting on another masterclass to dismiss his Quarter-Final opponent with a wave of his wand.

 

Over 740,000 tickets were sold to the Australian Open this year and its appeal continues to grow. What makes it even more special is the city in which it takes place. Melbourne.

 

There is something special about the capital of Victoria. Something unique, awkward, backward yet so fundamentally superior to other capital cities in Australia.

 

I hail from Sydney. The latte sipping, gluten free muffin munching and unaffordable housing market hornet’s nest that spruiks its superiority based on numbers and financial power. It is big, scary and soulless and lacks the honesty of Melbourne.

 

The problem is, it has taken me many trips to come to grips with Melbourne’s grandeur and years to be able to articulate it in words.

 

There is a unique simplicity of life and contentedness in Melbourne that breeds a tempo adhered to by most of its residents. Whilst a busy place where people move briskly from meetings to appointments and the like, there is less intensity and speed.

 

Almost a case of, ‘I need to get there on time, but if I don’t, it’ll be okay.’ The Sydney equivalent would be more akin to a pending death sentence whenever deadlines aren’t met or traffic lights infringe on fluidity of movement.

 

There is a spirit and culture in Melbourne that has evolved through a long standing desire to resist the ostentatious and arrogant, with a sense of fun and jocularity preferred.

 

As far back as the early days of television when pioneers like Graham Kennedy and Bert Newton filled our screens with irreverent humour and suggestion, Melbourne has been the hub of artistic invention, creativity and entertainment.

 

The long-running and hard to describe Hey Hey, its Saturday, a music quiz show named RocKwiz filmed at the Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda and the Melbourne Comedy Festival are further examples of the value placed on culture, creativity and humour.

 

There is a void of equivalent content emanating from other major cities; it seems Sydney and Brisbane continue to build high to medium density accommodation in a clear statement of ‘mine is bigger than yours’ and Adelaide and Perth don’t appear to even try.

 

Melbourne holds all the aces and the joker in the pack. The big events litter the southern calendar and the lifestyle permits Melburnians to actually attend them. The Grand Prix in March, the Boxing Day Test and Australia’s race that stops the nation, The Melbourne Cup, are unrivalled in Australia for attendance and engagement.

 

More anecdotally, whilst in Melbourne in the winter of 2015 and lapping up some AFL games, I walked alongside the gorgeous Yarra River after the Tigers had thumped Carlton and saw a figure dressed in a full Cookie Monster costume playing the trumpet.

 

It summed up the place, as in the distance the Tigers team song, based on the classic hit Babyface, played on some bizarre set of pipes and chimes. From where it came I did not know yet it echoed across the river and wafted through the calm and respectful mob who made their way to the nearest trams and trains for their journey home.

 

Sure the AFL is somewhat insular and lacking an international sphere and some of the trams do look a little dilapidated and rickety and the weather can be……..well, enough said, yet the locals don’t mind. More importantly, Melburnians don’t care what you think.

 

They dress smartly, find time to sit, talk and dine in bars and cafes that reek of sophistication and maintain a sense of community that has been lost in so many cities across the globe.

The reason? It’s Melbourne; the city that appears to be decades behind the big smoke that lies to its north yet might actually be light years ahead.

 

 

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4 Comments

  • Betty Tannous

    05.02.2018 at 20:34 Reply

    Wow great article, I always found that when I went to Melbourne, I tuned down a bit. Thanks for sharing!

  • Kathryn Thomas.

    06.02.2018 at 00:33 Reply

    I have only visited there once but in that weekend I found it classier, more friendlier service in restuarants and very well set out; more so than the city of Sydney. Sydney weather in winter has ‘one up’ on Melbourne, I froze walking the streets there but enjoyed the layout of their city, the tram travel service and the little food shops made for an enjoyable visit. More relaxing atmosphere – feeling like you could sit sipping your cuppa while ‘watching the world go by’!

  • Lyn Barden

    06.02.2018 at 23:13 Reply

    Stu, I love the summary of Sydney and the celebration of Federer. I am new to tennis but he seems a really nice guy and a fitting role model.
    You take us on a journey that is most enjoyable.
    Lyn

  • Karen Jones

    07.02.2018 at 03:57 Reply

    This is your best article yet – this is because it was obviously written well but it is also because I totally agree with you about Melbourne. I have always said after our many visits there that the busy lunch time crowds in Melbourne somehow seem to move around in a more relaxed pace than Sydney and the added friendliness is a bonus. The culture is obvious the minute you leave the airport and head to the city and you are greeted with the amazing and unusual structures along the freeway. The perfect use of alleyways as restaurants, shops, cafes and bars add to the appeal of the place – the streets are wider, restaurants are better, the trams are nostalgic and practical and as a female shopper it is a much nicer place to be that the centre of Sydney trying to shop in the only mall everyone tends to be – the dreaded Pitt Street Mall! Melbourne is much more like a European city for food and shops and this is obviously why people travel there in droves each year now. We have a lot to learn here in Sydney – let’s hope we can learn from our rival capital city in the south and improve on things here. I suspect it may be too late though …

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