Members of Brisbane’s flourishing bike polo scene return from Geneva’s world championships as questions about the sport’s legitimacy mount.
“To call it a sport at the moment is premature,” says Dwight Zakus, a lead sports organisation theory researcher at Griffith University.
“But nobody can stop them from calling it that.”
Lacking a formalised governing body and a uniform set of rules, bike polo falls short on criteria Zakus deems necessary for it be considered a sport.
Brisbane Hardcourt Bike Polo Association’s vice president, Ollie Wykeham, respects ‘abstract’ assertions made by researchers, but says the tyre-screeching, ball-bashing activity encompasses many traditional sports’ characteristics.
“You have the thrill of competition and there’s this insane camaraderie,” says the 26-year-old, who has relished swinging his mallet since being persuaded by friends three years ago to mount up.
Bike polo, in its original grass-court form, made an appearance at the London 1908 Olympics and has been riding its way on to hard courts since the mid 90s.
“It appeals to hipsters, people who want to be cool and ride their fixed gears. I was one of those people,” Wykeham says.
“In a weird way we are attracting outsiders and rebels, people who don’t have a social group or are a part of less socially acceptable groups.”
He says athletes from traditional sports are also drawn to bike polo as it kindles camaraderie.
“There is no question that when people compete against one another physically and athletically it’s a sport,” he says.
Almost 400 players took part in the fourth annual world championships, in which the Brisbane trio – Wykeham, Domenico Natoli and Roberto Abacher – finished 20 places higher than in 2011.
Resolute in his continued plight to see bike polo gain credence, Wykeham says it is only a matter of time before it becomes a universally accepted sport.
If Wykeham has his way this hip polo variation will one day emulate its grass-court cousin and hit the groomed hard courts of the Summer Olympiad.
By Gary Pearson
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Queen’s Park to support Brisbane’s LGBT community in their continued fight with the government to legalise same-sex marriage.
Chad St. James, who played a central role in organising the Aug. 11 rally, said his family and friends are disillusioned and tired of the LNP’s “blatant” discrimination toward the LGBT population.
“I think the government and Australia is a joke at the moment, especially in Queensland. We’ve gone back 30 years,” he said.
“It’s like living in a Nazi state. I think today (Saturday) is important because it’s showing them that we are not going to shut up, we are not going to be silent.”
The LNP has angered the minority group by its plan to ban surrogacy for same-sex couples despite premier Campbell Newman’s pre-election statements to the contrary.
“He’s a liar,” said the 30-year-old gay rights activist and member of Equal Love.
“The government wants to treat us like dogs, well dogs bite back if you beat them enough.”
St. James said the government has further alienated the LGBT community by cutting back on the group’s health funding.
Wendy Francis, Queensland’s director of the Christian Lobby Group, said people are entitled to have their say, but disagrees with the minority group’s stance.
“We all know people who are gay and lesbian and more than half of them don’t even care about marriage,” said Francis, who is in her second year as director of the lobby group.
“For a government to actually legislate a less-than-perfect start in life for a child is not its place.”
Senior member of the Socialist Alternative, Duncan Hart, said the family friendly atmosphere and turnout of almost 1000 boisterous supporters was inspiring.
“This is an indication that the government and the bigots who are backing them are in the minority on this issue,” said the 22-year-old.
“Polls are saying 60-something per cent are supporting gay marriage. It’s only a matter of time.”
ACT and Tasmania are developing same-sex legislation, to which the federal government and Queensland’s LNP are in staunch opposition of.
Corresponding rallies were held in Melbourne and Sydney to coincide with the anniversary of the 2004 Marriage Act amendment, which clearly defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Living as a gay, single male in Brisbane for over a decade, St. James said the government’s oppression of LGBT people has galvanised the group in its marriage-equality plight.
There are currently three same-sex bills before federal parliament.
Of Western nations, Canada has legalised same-sex marriage while only seven US states have followed suit.