The 2016 Olympics have arrived and Australia’s flag bearer, cyclist Anna Meares addressed the Australian contingent. Her simple speech of pride, overcoming adversity and being tenacious was heartfelt and brought a tear to everyone’s eyes including the Governor General. Anna knows something about spinning round so this week’s speech does a pirouette with some of Anna’s sentiment.
To all the dignitaries and dignified in our band of merry sporting warriors I say welcome to Rio.
Over the coming days we will have our highs and lows, times when we just don’t think we can go on and time when the adrenaline is pumping through us we won’t know where that last ounce of energy will come from.
I am the daughter of a coal miner from sunny Queensland – a place where like Brazil we imported black labour to work our fields and those from far off shores have made their home no longer enslaved but still with gaps in health, education and achievements on the sporting field.
While I am here I am going to strive for my best, feel proud of the green and gold on my body and that spirit of Australia inside my body.
The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.
It is not just about the competition.
Where I come from, Blackwater in Central Queensland is on the lands of the Ghungalu people. All of us in the team live on what has always been, is now and always will be Aboriginal land, get to know your country, walk it and let it talk to you, draw from its strength. I have learnt a lot from getting in touch with my own dreams – I never thought a girl like me from country Queensland would be at the Olympics – let alone more than once. Draw on your dreams and dig deep into the dreams of those who have gone before us. Call on the dreaming of our ancient lands to protect and inspire us as take our steps, strides, jumps, walks and throws with us into Rio. Open your eyes to the sounds and stories of this country too and in the Olympic spirit of friendship.
So while we are here lets show Rio our Aussie friendliness too and the Aussie fair go. When I am not on the field I am going to make it my business to find out more about this country we are competing in. I am going to break the rules like Dawn Fraser before me, I am going to visit a favela and I am asking Kitty to come with me. I am going to ride my bike through Santa Marta and see for myself what all the fuss is about. I am going to talk to the locals and listen to their stories of endeavor and survival. After all seven times more slaves came here than went to the US, so they must know something about struggle and survival. I am going to find out about their fights and battles and what gives them pride.
I am going to ask you all to come and join me in cheering on Team Refugee as well – and see if a bit of their spirit can rub off on me.
And in the Olympic tradition I am going to value this amazing opportunity and strive to do my best and cheer you all on to do yours. Lets make Australia proud on and off the field – we are more than green and gold.