There are many things which make me appreciate the magic of Melbourne but one thing in particular stands out. It is something which Australians are passionate about and never more so than in Melbourne. What I’m talking about is sport.
The great rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney took on a whole new dimension in 1956 when Melbourne hosted the Olympics. Remember Sydney didn’t get to host them until the year 2000.
As a legacy to this great global event we’ve been left with Olympic Boulevard.
Much has changed since that event more than 50 years ago but the legacy lives on.
The Melbourne Olympic Parks based on Olympic Boulevard are so close to the centre of the city, walking distance in fact. They are concentrated in one small area and you can see such a wide range of sports.
The first place you arrive at is Melbourne Park.
This is the home of the Australian Open, which is the first of the four tennis Grand Slams in the professional season.
It is not just early in the calendar year that these courts are used. I was passing by in December and was able to freely walk in and see a competitive match, look!
(The girl in black on the left was having a bit of a mare, she couldn’t keep any of her serves in.)
Of course the final of the Australian Tennis Open is held in the world-famous Rod Laver Arena.
If you didn’t know it’s named after this famous fellah.
The Arena is used all year around though, it is a great concert venue with all the big visiting acts playing there. When I was in town loads of girls were streaming in to see J Lo play. Funny that, the media claim she is one of the sexiest stars going yet I didn’t see many blokes heading that way.
Across the road is the Westpac Centre.
This is the home of Collingwood Football Club. Well it is not real football (which the Aussies unfortunately call “soccer”), it is an Australian Rules Football team, aka Aussie rules.
The Australian Football League (AFL) has a lot of origins in Melbourne and most of the teams are named after suburbs of the city. Collingwood have a long history and celebrate their legends of players such as Bob Rose.
Next door to the Westpac Centre is the Olympic Park Oval. This used to be a fully functional stadium for athletics and other sports. However it is now undergoing a major renovation. Watch this space.
The Olympic Park used to be the home of the now famous Melbourne Storm rugby league team. They won many NRL (National Rugby League) Championships in the first decade of the 21st Century only to have them wiped for breaching salary cap rules.
The Melbourne Storm now play at a relatively newly built stadium next door to the Olympic Park Oval.
This egg shell style stadium is known as AAMI Park. It is a fully functioning stadium hosting at least four professional sporting teams. Not only are there the Melbourne Storm but there are two football (real football) teams (Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart) plus the rugby union team the Melbourne Rebels.
If basketball is what you are after then visit the Hisense Arena which is across the road from AAMI Park. It also plays host to various concerts and events.
If you go behind the Hisense Arena and cross the bridge over the train tracks you arrive at the most famous ground in Melbourne. The world-renowned MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground).
Often referred to as “The ‘G” by locals, this ground plays host to domestic and international cricket matches and big AFL games. The annual final is held here with crowds up to 100,000.
To commemorate the history of the iconic MCG are statues of great players outside the ground. Amongst these are the Essendon great Dick Reynolds.
For me Olympic Boulevard sums up the sporting magic of Melbourne and is never short of something to see. Yet that is not all. Across town is the modern stadium close to Southern Cross train station. This ground is named after the current sponsor. In the past it has been known as the Colonnial or the Telstra Dome. More recently it is sponsored by Etihad.
Melbourne is also not just the opening venue for the tennis season. It is host to the first Formula 1 Grand Prix meeting of the year which is held at Albert Park, alongside the route to St Kilda.
Locals in Melbourne tell me that they would get a crowd for the opening of an envelope. Well I don’t know if that is true but they certainly turn out for their sport in some fabulous stadia. It is all part of the magic of Melbourne.
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