Google Arts & Culture (GAC) has launched ‘Australia: Great Sporting Land’, an immersive online exhibit that invites fans to explore the people, places, and moments that have shaped Australia’s sporting culture and the stories behind some of the most popular games. The digital exhibit, which is the result of three years of research, offers content that engages and resonates with sports lovers around the globe, especially cricket, given Australia’s great tradition in the game.
Program Manager, GAC, Suhair Khan, explains the extent of the research. In the past, “Most of the work has primarily been around history, monuments, and culture. This is the first-ever GAC project that explores and celebrates the realm of sports as a culture. For this project, our team has worked closely in collaboration with 30+ partners (sporting institutions, stadiums, commentators, athletes, fans), who contributed over 11,000 images and videos and 200 artworks and artefacts.”
The platform gives unprecedented access to sporting memorabilia, moments, and museums. “We are exploring the role sport has played in shaping the culture of a country. Following extensive research, we have tried to contextualise it and provide it with historical relevance on a global stage. That in itself is an incredible experience.”
Suhair’s favourite feature is on Blind Cricket History. “It shows how Australians paved the way for disabled persons (and mixed gender teams) with gusto, inventing the game of Blind Cricket.” The story about the North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club, with 6,000-plus items from their collection, is, according Suhair, “such a wonderful blend of the best of old and new in Australian lifesaving. Plus, it features an iconic beach and ocean. As a non-Aussie, it’s very evocative of Australia!”
Cricket fans would love ‘The Away Change Room Doors’. The Sydney Cricket Ground’s Away Change Room is the inner sanctum of the visiting cricket team. The change room doors document tales of the past and present players, and their achievements at the ground. These doors feature a list of Australian domestic and international bowlers and batsmen. A replica door had to be erected to accommodate the performers. The replica has signatures of Indian cricket stars like Virat Kohli, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Yuvraj Singh, and many more Indian and international players.
To make sure we visit the page, Suhair says, “Recognising the great sporting rivalry that India shares with the Aussies, this is an excellent opportunity for fans to relive some incredible moments in the history of cricket, through archival footage, new film and interviews, and newly digitised assets from important cricketing collections, which are coming online for the first time.”
Catching the Ashes, with Steve Waugh
Steve Waugh, one of the legends of modern cricket, had a 19-year-career — 46 of his 168 Tests were played in the Ashes and 10 of his 32 centuries were in the series, the unbeaten 177 at Leeds in 1989, his favourite. Here, he talks about the significance of the Ashes.
What is your reaction to sport being included in Google’s Arts and Culture project?
It is a natural fit. Sport is a part of our culture and make-up. Many people might say sport is art.
What are some of your favourite pictures from the collection?
Don Bradman’s first bat — to hold that, a piece of history, the feel is light-weight. Hold its skinny grip, and through Google’s digital imagery, see deep into the grain of the wood. All its markings and chips in the wood magnified.
What could be the decisive factors for this series?
Both sides have excellent bowlers who can take the required 20 wickets to win a Test match. From our point of view, we need a few of our lesser-known players to excel as we did in the 1989 Ashes and came of age as a team.
What are the best memories of Ashes cricket you’ve played?
My favourite memories of Ashes Test cricket are my 1989 ton in Headingly; winning 8 of the 9 Test Series I played in, and I will never forget the century on the last ball in Sydney.