Of the sporting events that we no longer have in Canberra, some had a long run of many years while others burned brightly but briefly.
Even driving to the coast, there are frequent reminders of yesteryears’ sporting events.
Wherever there are road works and the concrete barriers are rolled out, the signage on the side of the bollards is an instant reminder of the Canberra GMC 400. The barriers were an integral component of this V8 Supercar race that lasted just three years into a five-year contract.
The street circuit through the Parliamentary Triangle, designed by Mark Skaife, was the venue for the event between 2000 and 2002 before it was halted because of concerns over government expenditure on the race.
The race livened up the city in more ways than one. It attracted thousands of motorsport fans to Canberra over the Queen’s Birthday June long weekend. It also resulted in a surge of calls to talkback radio and letters to the editor over the disruption to the daily commute, the cost, and noise and air pollution concerns.
The Birdman Rally was another attraction that saw thousands flock to the slopes of Regatta Point to watch enthusiasts jump off a 10-metre platform in homemade flying machines.
In 1991 we watched the late George Reekie aboard his handmade fibreglass and foam glider. He successfully flew 50 metres and pocketed the $20,000 in prize money. His was a rare success. Others on that day simply plummeted straight into the lake from the platform. (Visit NFSA for the full glory of the Birdman Rally – and the epic crowd – of the much-loved competition.)
On reflection, it’s probably not a surprise that the Birdman Rally met its own watery grave in 1992 due to costs, including primarily, and not surprisingly, public liability insurance.
For many years the Commonwealth Bank Cycling Classic, featuring a number of the world’s top riders in a race down the east coast of Australia, had Canberra as the final stage in October.
Thousands cheered behind makeshift barriers with cyclists jostling for positions at high speed along the criterion circuit created through the streets of Civic. The race came to its demise almost 20 years ago with the loss of sponsorship among the reasons for the end.
The ANZ Tour Golf Championship took place at Royal Canberra for three years from 1998 to 2000 featuring the top players on the men’s Australasian tour at the end of the year. Sadly for golf fans, it only lasted three years.
Royal Canberra, of course, hosted the Australian Ladies Open in 2013. But it could be many years before it returns due to the competitive nature of bidding for the rights to host major tournaments.
There are other events that Canberra has hosted including the Masters Games in 1997 and 2003, attracting many thousands of competitors to our city.
Although the examples given here have been relegated to history for various reasons, they clearly say something about the capacity of Canberra to successfully host a plethora of unique and diverse sports.