Two cheers for progress

This was longstanding . . . but now only the scoreboard, left, is still there
Once there were roars. Then there was a big crash of falling glass, roof and walls. Now there is only silence.

Last month the red-tiled main stand of Perry Lakes Stadium was demolished, much later than the rest of the venue because of an asbestos-related problem. The building is now a pile and will be carted away in trucks so that the rest of the swish housing development, between Floreat Park and Bold Park, can proceed.

The cheers of large crowds came almost half a century ago, in November 1962 during what were then called the British Commonwealth and Empire Games. It was a baking hot week but the Duke of Edinburgh performed the official opening with all the cool that 15 years as a monarchical spouse had instilled into him.

It was a time of upheaval. The “empire” component of the title was on the way out. The 1970 tournament in Edinburgh was the British Commonwealth Games. In 1962 the lights were going out on the British Empire itself. Independence was looming for many African colonies in particular. Harold Macmillan, with a touch of realism and even foresight rare in a British Conservative Prime Minister, had already spoken of the “winds of change”. Spot on.

In 1964, newly arrived from England, I sat in that stand, first to watch soccer on a winter Saturday not quite bleak but certainly lacking buzz. Why did so few people in Australia turn up for this football code? The second occasion was for a sports carnival involving my boys-only school and half a dozen others. There was certainly more noise that day, as hundreds of likely lads went slightly mad in the company of real live girls. My main event was the 200-yard show-off. Nearly got a bronze.

The scoreboard at the southern end of the stadium is still standing. It won’t be showing any more scores but it will remind us all of the day when the Duke said nice things heralding the arrival of Western Australia on the world map of sport.