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Beer, barbacue and bowls

Australia [SPORT]

“Mate, fancy a game of lawn bowls this arvo?” You’d expect such a suggestion to come from a mouth lined with false teeth, but the sport hitherto associated with OAPs is experiencing a youthful renaissance in Australia.

Going under the thoroughly modern moniker of “barefoot bowls”, the game that emerged in Britain back in the 13th century is now popular among Australian students and young professionals. Bowling clubs around the country hold events catering for the youthful crowd, laying on music, beer and barbecues.

“Opening up our sport to a younger audience is something we’ve worked hard to achieve in recent years,” says Tony Sherwill, development manager at Bowls Australia, a national ­organisation dedicated to promoting the sport at all levels. “The benefits are immense: more members in each club, more players for competitions, a larger pool for elite representatives, increased revenue for clubs – the list goes on.”

With more than 240,000 club members and 500,000 social players in Australia, lawn bowls is one of the country’s largest participation sports. But what do the old guard think of their game being hijacked by these upstarts? “The overwhelming majority embrace younger members,” says Sherwill reassuringly. Thank goodness; the last thing we’d want to see is a riot on a manicured lawn.

Barefoot Down Under:

01 The club considered to be the pioneer of the bowls youth revolution is St Kilda in Melbourne.
02 The sport was given an injection of youth cool when St Kilda was used as a location in cult TV show ‘The Secret Life of Us’ from 2001 to 2005.

U-turn on turns

New Zealand [TRAFFIC]

The New Zealand government is removing a road rule that causes havoc at intersections. Currently, turning drivers give way to other drivers turning from the right, unless there is through traffic. Confused? So are drivers: the rule causes 2,560 crashes a year and is often ignored. It was introduced in 1977 and followed the Australian state of Victoria, where the law was brought in to help trams – even though New Zealand doesn’t have trams. Victoria gave it up in 1993. “You’re trying to watch three streams of traffic and make a judgement,” says the New Zealand Automobile Association’s Mike Noon. “And that’s bloody hard.”

Deadly explosion

Solomon Islands [BOMBS]

Three people were killed and two others were injured recently in the capital Honiara by unexploded bombs left over from the Second World War. Local people earn a living by boiling the leftover ordnance to extract the explosive. They then take it to the markets to sell to fishermen, who detonate it in the water and collect the dead or stunned fish.

Kiwi clash

Samoa [MEDIA]

New Zealand’s state television network is at loggerheads with the Samoan government over a news item claiming Samoa has major gun, gang and drug problems. Television New Zealand was ordered to pay NZ$5,000 (€2,600) to the Samoan government after New Zealand’s TV watchdog ruled the story had breached broadcasting standards.

Bandit bashers

Micronesia [COASTGUARD]

Pirates, polluters, smugglers and illegal fishing: it’s not all postcard perfect in the Micronesian tropics. Now, an ambitious plan is in the pipeline for joint coastguard operations by Japan, the US and Australia to protect the remote islands of the western Pacific Ocean.

The $10m (€7m) project, set up by Tokyo-based Sasakawa Peace Foundation, will focus on Palau, Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia – an area spanning 5.5 million sq km. With a target launch date of April 2011, the ocean bandits have one year to clean up.

Leafy places

American Samoa and Micronesia

Oceania boasts some of the most densely forested places on earth, with American Samoa being 89 per cent tree-covered and Micronesia averaging 90.6 per cent. But the world record goes to Suriname, with 94.7 per cent of the South American country under a tropical canopy.

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