Too Drunk To Shut The Pop Holes

By David

Some readers may recognize this extract from the first sentence of George Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm.

According to Wikipedia, “Orwell was a critic of Joseph Stalin and hostile to Moscow-directed Stalinism. The Soviet Union, he believed, had become a brutal dictatorship, built upon a cult of personality and enforced by a reign of terror.”

I have no doubt the motives behind Swimwatch have been the subject of debate, rumor and wild speculation. I know this because, for over ten years, I have received many emails about Swimwatch; emails that have questioned whether my parents were married on the 3rd March 1948; emails that have suggested that my IQ is well below the national average and emails that claim my name and Swimwatch are a cover for the writings of some other deranged mind. None of that is true – my parents were married, my IQ is above 100 and Swimwatch covers for no one.

When Swimwatch was established, twelve years ago, its purpose was to express happy swimming stories and to oppose bad policies and decisions. That has not changed. It is sad that the management of New Zealand sport and swimming in particular have provided such a bountiful harvest of bad stories. However that is the world Miskimmin has provided. Layton, Renford, Villanueva and Lyles may be new; they may even be pleasant company; but the Sport New Zealand doctrine they have been ordered employ has failed over and over again and for that reason Swimwatch will contest their every move and question their motives and purpose.

Proudly I can paraphrase Wikipedia, “Swimwatch is a critic of Peter Miskimmin and hostile to Swimming New Zealand directed centralism. We believe sport in New Zealand and Swimming in particular have become centralized to a point of paralysis; dictatorships built upon a Sport New Zealand cult and enforced by the imposition of financial fear.”

As sports have become increasingly dependent on government welfare, the bureaucrats running Sport New Zealand have expanded their influence and power to a point where the full time preoccupation of administrators is to action the orders of Miskimmin and Baumann. The ability to obey and massage the ego of the government’s pay-masters has become the defining concern of New Zealand sport. Even those who should know better, who should stand for independence and strength, have accepted the inevitability of state power. One of New Zealand’s most prominent sport’s lawyers and past Olympic Association Board Member, Maria Clarke, told me recently, “Sport in New Zealand cannot be delivered without Sport New Zealand”.

It was with good reason New Zealand’s largest newspaper selected Miskimmin as the most powerful person in New Zealand sport. This is what they said;

“1. Peter Miskimmin – The way the high-performance model is set up, virtually every national sporting organisation (NSO) is beholden to Sport NZ. NSOs spend the bulk of their year trying to achieve prescribed Sport NZ targets and the rest praying that they will get their reward in the form of a cheque. It’s Miskimmin’s name on the bottom of those cheques.”

And, for those of you familiar with “Animal Farm”, this little rhyme pretty well sums up the current state of New Zealand sport.

Thou are the giver of

All thy creatures love,

Full belly twice a day, clean straw to roll upon;

Every beast great or small,

Sleeps at peace in his stall,

Thou watchest over all,

Comrade Napoleon!

It is far from surprising that we have ended up in this place. The government’s wealth and a civil servant unable to resist the temptation to use it to expand his personal influence meant that the growth of State power was as certain as it was inevitable. As “Deep Throat” said to the Washington Post, “Follow the money”. Let’s take a look at a few sports and see how dependant they are on Peter Miskimmin. Let’s see what a pathetic condition the bureaucrats that work for Sport New Zealand have turned Swimming New Zealand and similar organizations into.

By any commercial measure these organizations are majority owned subsidiaries of Sport New Zealand. Without Miskimmin they don’t exist – or at least the Head Office and Millennium type parasites would disappear. The rest of us, who never see any of Miskimmin’s money, would be unaffected. Miskimmin, Baumann and their cheque book could disappear tomorrow and we’d be better off. And all the while Miskimmin wanders around New Zealand telling his adoring fans that he never gets involved in the internal workings of sporting organizations. I’ve been to two Miskimmin road show events. Both are beautifully described in Animal Farm.

“…out from the door of the farmhouse came a long file of pigs, all walking on their hind legs…out came Napoleon himself, majestically upright, casting haughty glances from side to side.
There was a deadly silence. Amazed, terrified, huddling together, the animals watched Napoleon march slowly round the yard. It was as though the world had turned upside-down.

Then there came a moment when the first shock had worn off and when, in spite of everything-in spite of their terror, and of the habit, developed through long years, of never complaining, never criticising, no matter what happened-they might have uttered some word of protest. But just at that moment, as though at a signal, all the sheep burst out into a tremendous bleating of-

“Four legs good, two legs better! Four legs good, two legs better! Four legs good, two legs better!”

It went on for five minutes without stopping. And by the time the sheep had quieted down, the chance to utter any protest had passed, for Napoleon had marched back into the farmhouse.”

If Miskimmin does not get involved in the internal workings of NSOs can anyone explain to me why he appointed Sport New Zealand representatives to sit on the old Swimming New Zealand Board? Why he condoned his representatives ordering Swimming New Zealand Board members to change a vote they didn’t like?  Why he sits on the selection panel charged with appointing an NSO chief executive? Why he make frequent visits to Bike New Zealand? He’s involved all right. Again Animal Farm seems so apt.

“No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”

Of course the Miskimmin, Baumann Empire will never last. New Zealand is fundamentally a liberal democratic society. Eventually Miskimmin and his totalitarian model will be rejected and a decentralised management structure will be put in its place. In the meantime Miskimmin will appoint clones of himself to NSO management positions – hoping they will bolster and support his reign. It is true – New Zealand sport is stacked full of Miskimmin replicas. Visit the Millennium coffee shop any day at ten o’clock and there they are, a dozen Miskimmins, dressed the same, believing the same, saying the same. And that is why Swimwatch is here. We began this story with the first sentence from Animal Farm. It is appropriate, therefore, to conclude with the book’s last sentence.

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”