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This weekend’s Cultural Close-up is inspired by current events in Australia.

This past week, Melbourne hosted one of its biggest sporting events of the year – the Melbourne Cup, Australia’s major thoroughbred horse race. The race itself is a 3.2km race for horses three years old and over. It lasts for just over 3 mins, but is attended by over 100,000 spectators. Among those are many local and international celebrities.

Melbourne Cup Race, Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne

Melbourne Cup Race, Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne, Australia. Photo credi: Flikr CC Charlievdb

The race truly does stop the nation. Not only is Melbourne Cup a public holiday for all residents of Melbourne and some parts of regional Victoria, but it is also widely watched by Australians all over the country. The race is broadcasted in offices, bars and restaurants, and even in public street gatherings. Many businesses put on Melbourne Cup luncheons, encouraging their employees to stop work and gather to watch the race, enter in the sweepstakes and engage in the celebrations.

Crowds at Federation Square before the Melbourne Cup

Crowds at Federation Square in Melbourne before the Melbourne Cup. Photo credit: Flickr CC Alpha

Horse Racing in Australia is big spectator sport and gambling on horse races is a popular activity across the country. For the younger generation, though, “the races” as they are often referred to, are all about getting dressed up and spending a day at the race course with friends, drinks, and entertainment.

At the races in Brisbane, Australia

At the races in Brisbane, Australia

Unfortunately, this year’s Melbourne Cup had a tragic ending. The race favourite, Admire Rakti,  suffered from acute heart failure collapsing to his death in his stable shortly after the race. While another horse Araldo, had to be put down after breaking his leg as a result of being spooked by a spectators flag.

The incidents have caused a lot of animal rights activists to speak out again horse racing. Additional rules will be implemented as a result of the events at this years Melbourne Cup, but the race itself isn’t going anywhere.

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Cultural Close-ups is a series of photographs and stories from around the world that go beyond the pretty sights and famous attractions. If you’d like to contribute a photo and a short story to Cultural Close-Ups, please email your submission to [email protected]