Monday, 8 August 2016

2000: Sydney Olympics Flashback - Opening & Closing Ceremonies

The Games of the 31st Olympiad are well underway in Rio De Janiero, Brazil. We were treated to an impressive opening ceremony on Saturday morning.This week, lets relive our ceremony from when we hosted the Games of the 27th Olympiad in September 2000.

Sydney's Opening Ceremony on September 15 lasted four hours and involved more than 10 000 performers. Stockmen on Horses opened the ceremony with a procession which culminated in them forming the olympic rings. VAfter the VIP's and the anthem was sung, viewers were treated to the story of a young girl visiting the beach. She falls asleep and then is taken on a trip through time as the story of Australia. The young girl was Sydney school student Nikki Webster. She now runs a dance school based at Leichhardt.


The cauldron was lit by Cathy Freeman who would go on to win gold in her pet event - the 400 metre race in Athletics a week and a half later. Legends including Dawn Fraser and Betty Cuthbert were tipped as favourites by bookies to receive the honour. Fraser and Cuthert joined Shane Gould, Raylene Boyle, Shirley Strickland De La Hunty and Debbie Flintoff King in relaying the flame around Stadium Australia. However, there was an epic blunder when technical problems saw the lit cauldron stop on its ascent for four minutes.

Performers included John Farnham and Olivia Newton-John who performed a duet - "Dare to Dream". Vanessa Amorossi performed "Heroes Live Forever" while Tina Arena performed "The Flame" to welcome the Olympic Flame into the stadium. Julie Anthony with support from Human Nature performed the best ever rendition of Advance Australia Fair and for a change, both verses were sung.

10 000 Athletes from 199 countries plus 4 Individual Olympic Athletes from East Timor participated in the Parade of Athletes. As hosts, Australia marched into the stadium at the end of the parade with a team of 632 athletes, receiving a big welcome from the 110 000 assembled.

Governor General Sir William Deane (as the Queen's representative in Australia) officially opened the Olympics.

Eight former Olympic Champions from Australia were involved in the the raising of the Olympic Flag.

The ceremony was broadcast on Channel Seven and this was the most watched television event in Australian History with around 11 million watching that evening.

As a bonus, why not include the Closing Ceremony as well. This had to be our biggest concert ever with a plethora of stars including Slim Dusty, Midnight Oil, Paul Hogan, Savage Garden and Kylie Minogue.

This was also the first closing ceremony where the show was taken out of the main stadium - a 20 minute fireworks finale on Sydney Harbour featuring a river of fire from the Stadium down the Parramatta River into Sydney Harbour. One million attended the display itself, which at the time was the biggest fireworks show in history. It involved five fireworks companies from around the world. The "best ever" Olympics had finished with a bang.

Sydney did set one new innovation that Beijing was happy to do for their opening ceremony in 2008 - A big fireworks finale to end off the show. They were not afraid to take out of the stadium and into the surrounding area. London also followed Sydney's lead. Melbourne did it for their Commonwealth Games in 2006.

It was moments like this in the Sydney Olympic Games that would help reinvigorate the Olympic Movement which was battling corruption associated with the successful bid for the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. Sydney was seen as vital to the future of the Olympic Movement and this city gave it a shot in the arm.

The Olympic Cauldron at Cathy Freeman Park. Photo taken by the Author (2006).