Saturday, March 22, 2008

A few more notes on Ballarat.

March 8 -6:30 am

Ballarat was home of the 1956 rowing and canoeing course for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, and until recent years, the courses were still in use. Due to drought, the lake could now be the site of a steeplechase, but no rowing. With a few green marshy exceptions, this not quite picturesque lake was now a prairie, but this did not seem to keep the walkers, runners and cyclists from still talking advantage of its nonexistent shores. The boathouses were still well maintained, and an occasional boat sat outside this meadow waiting expectantly for water. This was most certainly the most visible sign of drought I had seen so far. No sails, no puddles, no ripple of oars, just the smell of damp earth. I wondered how many sets of keys and wallets could be found by walking across this old lakebed. The lake’s name is Wendouree, and a small memorial to the games still exists on its shores. On the stone edifice is a quote:

"The most important thing in the Olympic games is not to win, but to take part. Just as the most important thing is life is not to triumph, but to struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well."

This rolled into my mind, and for a second, I was brought in black-and-white imagination to a lake filled with water 52 years ago. Smaller trees and cotton uniforms with the all too familiar smell of wet and sweat and the rhythm of the oars. I was sad to see this lake, home of struggles, go now through its own struggle for existence.

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