The Bush Olympics

Everyone’s been talking about the London Olympics, but I’m pretty thrilled with Central Australia’s Bush Olympics:

“More than 50 students from cattle stations and remote communities across Central Australia are currently competing in the final rounds of the Alice Springs School of the Air Bush Olympics. The students log in from computers in their schoolrooms hundreds of kilometres apart, to participate in warm-up activities via web cam. They then head outside, into the dustiest of playgrounds to complete half an hour of whatever Olympic sport is on the London schedule that morning. So far that’s included weightlifting, equestrian events (featuring real hobby horses at some stations), athletics, and hockey. Their trainer, Jo Black from the YMCA says there’s some real talent among the School of the Air’s students, who live in an area covering 1.3 million square kilometres.

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But it’s not all about exercise: Mrs Pearson says the highlight of the Bush Olympics was the opening ceremony. ‘Student and parents logged in from 62 sites across Central Australia. It was important for us to light the Olympic flame here in the studio. A flickering flame is made from red and yellow and orange, so we had lots of helium balloons, concealed under a veil. And when our student William Weir lit the cauldron, the veil was pulled off and the balloons reached skywards. It was a beautiful representation. Also, every team from each station or community made their own flag [and] mascot’.”

Plus, Alice Springs School of the Air is pretty amazing. It “offers a wide range of educational services and activities to isolated primary children” in the southern half of the Northern Territory, the extreme north of South Australia and the south-east of Western Australia. Originally relying on radio communication, “the first broadcasts were made from the Royal Flying Doctor Base in Alice Springs, Northern Territory (NT), in 1951.” Today they run their own ISP, making “extensive use of satellite technology” because only 5% of the Outback has mobile coverage and their landlines (upgraded in the 90s) cannot support broadband.