The media told the fans that bans would apply to the Aussie flag at Big Day Out and the Mexican Wave at the cricket.
However the flag was never to be banned at BDO as the organisers stated “We are not banning the Australian flag but are simply discouraging its use for anti-social purposes at the Big Day Out.”
Last year’s BDO was held in the aftermath of the Cronulla riots and some “true blue” yobbos took it on themselves to enforce patriotism by insisting that passers-by kiss the flag and if they refused they were abused both verbally and physically.
The Mexican wave was banned at the cricket because more yobbos were making the event uncomfortable for others by insisted on throwing anything in the air they had at their disposal, like drink containers or even eskys, which caused injury to those around them.
Then the opportunist pollies and shock jocks jumped on the bandwagon to decry the banning of the flag, but not the Mexican wave. So why not? Are they anti Mexican? If so they would be off the mark. The Wave originated in the US in 1981 and was practiced at football and baseball games around the country. The Wave came to international attention at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and so became known as the Mexican Wave.
So surely our USA loving PM would encourage an audience participation activity with such an American pedigree. But his voice was not to be heard, pity he couldn’t hold his tongue on the flag issue as well.
As for the flag hysteria – I leave the last word to BDO organisers “The Big Day Out is not an Australia Day event, but a music festival showcasing music artists from around the world and aspires to unify people through music. Unfortunately the media reports yesterday were not quoted accurately and we must thank the participating media for wasting everybody’s time including the Prime Minister John Howard, Premier Morris Iemma, NSW RSL President Don Rowe, Keysar Trad (a confidant of the Mufti Sheik Taj el-Dene Elhilaly) and Burt Lane of the Australian National Flag Association…”
So what is the lesson in this for organisers of public events – large or small?
- Damage control starts with Risk Management. Understand the consequences of any decisions that may be taken and then work out what possible reactions may occur so that you are prepared for those reactions.
- Have your media responses worked out in advance and be prepared for whatever comes up.
And tread carefully when it comes to nationalism because John W Howard has wedge politics down to a fine art, particularly as he had to wrestle the national flag and all its symbolism back from Pauline Hanson.