US Vice President Joe Biden attends an AFL match between West Coast and Carlton at the MCG. Also pictured: AFL footballer Mason Cox and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.The Secret Service codename for Vice-President Joe Biden is “Celtic”, but the Gaelic links to Australian rules football must have puzzled the small troop of burly blokes with earpieces hovering at the MCG boundary line as their charge strode onto the green.
Only a few minutes earlier a man dressed head to toe in a navy blue onesie had perched on top of a hovercraft, spinning donuts wildly across the ground to entertain the crowd.
It’s an oval shaped ball, and you kick it, AFL chief Gil McLachlan appeared to instruct his slightly bemused-looking US visitor before Carlton took on West Coast on Sunday.
But the MCG has long been familiar with Americans, well before the arrival of US recruit Mason Cox, the Collingwood ruck man from Texas, who later sat beside Biden in the stands.
US Marines used the hallowed sporting turf as a campsite in the Second World War during a brief rest in Melbourne after the pivotal battle for Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, which cost more than 7000 American lives.
Mr Biden praised the depth of military ties between the US and Australia when speaking in the members stand during the presentation of a restored ceremonial US flag dating from the war.
“We’re together, it’s stamped on our DNA,” Biden said.
But it was modern science that dominated Biden’s morning to commence his trip to Australia, touring the labs at Melbourne’s new billion-dollar cancer centre, flanked by Premier Daniel Andrews and federal Health Minister Sussan Ley.
Biden lost a son, Beau, 46, to brain cancer last year, and reflected on the precious moments for patients and their family after diagnosis.
“You try and learn as much as you can as rapidly as you can,” he said.
Biden has been granted what he called “dictator” powers by US President Barack Obama to drive a new urgency in the search for better cancer treatments.
Biden announced the US and Australia will sign a deal to share about 60,000 patient records to study the genetic make-up of the more than 200 types of cancer.
The aim, Biden said, was to join in sharing data from across the world, where study will be assisted by supercomputers and hopefully lead to a future where cancer treatment was a simple as tackling diseases such as mumps or measles.
“Most of all it is about not giving up hope, not giving up the fight,” he declared.