Friday, September 17, 2010

The Olympics Saves a Frog (Sydney, Australia)


It is exactly ten years since Cathy Freeman stood among cascading waters and lit the Olympic torch to start sixteen extraordinary days at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Sydneysiders exalted in a remarkable games as visitors rolled in from all corners of the globe and the eyes of the world peered down upon us. The lead-up had its typical share of controversies over the money being spent, ticketing issues and the like, but the exposure of Sydney to the world, the fine memories and world-class sporting facilities are tremendous local legacies.

One of the most unusual issues was created by a humble frog. Not overly attractive, the endangered (and appropriately named in line with home sporting colours) green and golden bell frog was discovered on the planned site of the future tennis stadium. With plans for the stadium already approved and the Olympics nearing, the games that sold itself on its environmental approach decided to protect this humble frog and its habitat, the tennis facility being moved a couple of kilometres away.

The Brickpit had been quarried for 70 years providing around two-thirds of all the red bricks involved in the construction of the millions of Sydney homes. This abandoned and ugly industrial wasteland with remnants of toxic chemicals was finally to be filled and converted to tennis courts.

The decaying brickwork machinery was left laying, claypits abandoned and a remarkable 550 metres circular walk was erected as a floating walkway almost twenty metres above the ground. Somewhat eerie sound recordings around the walk recount past brick workers' experiences in the factory while the motorcycle-like croak of the green and golden bell frog echoes from another hidden speaker.

The Brickpit Ring Walk is an unusual travel wonder comprising one of a number of walks on the preserved lands on the Olympic site, others include a birds wetlands, several parks and an extensive mangrove area with boardwalks.

As you walk this strange circle of galvenised metal and plastic looking down on a lake and grasslands, think how the bell frogs, invisible from above, can luxuriate in the thought that their home was almost converted to a home of topspin, drop volleys and slice serves.

Photo Credit: Bell frog courtesy of Taronga Park Education Department
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13 comments:

Anil said...

I really enjoyed this story and love the fact that the site was changed. In so many other places around the world they would have just built the stadium without giving it a second thought.

John C said...

it's nice and really appreciate because a frog population will be getting down and it is warm step to save them.

Barbara Weibel said...

I echo Anil's comment - kudos to Australia for having the courage to do the right thing. And the walkway that remains is pretty nifty, too!

Heather on her travels said...

Well, that was one lucky frog, what a lot of trouble it caused!Now I understand why builders dread finding some endangered species.

Sunee said...

I'm not a big frog-lover, but hooray for eco-friendly development - especially from something as newsworthy as the Olympics.

Mark H said...

@anil: It is a good news story.

@john c: Some frog species are seriously endangered.

@barbara: Ausralia doesn't have the finest environmental record but such events are a positive reinforcement that we do have some good news stories

Mark H said...

@heather: Developers in Australia fear the environmental reports.

@sunee: I suspect that because it was for the Olympics and the eyes of the world were watching, it made it more important to save the frog's habitat.

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