Nimbin, a lush patch of earth 780 kilometres north of Sydney, has long been known as the dope growers’ capital of Australia.
It also plays host to Mardi Grass, where 10,000 hippies converge every year for a two day festival of all things combustible.
The high point (if you’ll excuse the pun … and brace yourself for more to come) is the Hemp Olympix, the catalyst for which lay in the objections of left wing radicals to the ‘commercialised, corrupt and corporatised circus’ that the Modern Olympic Games had become.
And so the concept of the ‘alternative games’ took root in the town that put itself on the map in 1973 for Australia’s version of Woodstock and has been synonymous with green activism, flea markets and long-bearded alien spotters ever since.
Roll on some 30 years and The Hemp Olympix continues to impress for upending well-worn stereotypes on three counts – the first being the fact that the event even exists, given that pot smokers are hardly renowned for their organisational skills.
Stoners can also be an utterly humourless lot and yet The Hemp Olympix has some playful touches:
- The Joint Rolling competition (two categories). Speed and my favourite, Artistry for the ‘most original and beautiful with as many papers as you like within ten minutes’.
- The Bong Throwing competition (male/female categories). Interestingly this category has an educational function at its heart as organisers have long been concerned for the health of young bong smokers who use plastic bottles and garden hoses known to release toxic fumes when lit. Incidentally the bong throw must not exceed a run up of ten steps and must conclude with a yell which the rules rather superfluously indicate ‘must contain at least one sound’.
- Irongrower Person Event (male/female categories). This obstacle course mirrors the real life feats of cultivators by demanding that competitors carry a 40kg fertiliser bag (20kgs for women) and water bucket between marked points without spillage. Damage to the lantana tunnel obstacle on the way through results in instant disqualification.
- The Furry Freak Brothers lookalike competition. Enough said.
And finally, perhaps the biggest surprise of the lot, police participation. Seriously. The Hemp Olympix includes a Tug-O-War competition between the Police and the Polites (aka hippies) which is all the more remarkable for the fact that as recently as 2006, the New South Wales riot squad, accompanied by sniffer dogs, raided Mardi Grass and arrested scores of festival goers.
But in what appears to have been a win for the Nimbin community, the police have subsequently given up its attack strategy as the poor sniffer dogs were, quite literally, losing the plot, particularly as villagers had been scattering marijuana leaves all over Nimbin to lead any sniffer dog ambush astray.
Happily these days the police presence is an altogether more supportive one. As local area commander Superintendent Matt Kehoe has said ‘The community supports the festival so our aim is just to ensure a peaceful festival and target anti-social behaviour’.
It’s good to see then that thanks to the cops, the grass is indeed greener at The Hemp Olympix these days.
Needless to say I’m holding my breath for the announcement of The 2014 Hemp Olympix, but evidently they must still be mulling over the programme. I can only hope that they have even grander plans of a joint venture with the Bong Bong Races.