At the closing ceremony for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch declared the Games “the best ever”. Certainly London has a lot to do if it’s to eclipse the millennium party in Australia’s oldest city.
Who could forget Cathy Freeman’s body-suited dash to 400m gold in front of a rapturous home crowd, before her emotional lap of honour, carrying both the Australian and Aboriginal flags? Or the innovative-but-somewhat-less-successful blue stripe painted on Sydney’s streets to mark the 26-mile route of the marathon? Although sections of this have been preserved as a reminder of the city’s time as host, others had to be removed as they proved hazardous to baffled drivers.
The Olympic Park, a few miles to the west of the city, is now a thriving commercial development, which plays host to a diverse range of arts and cultural events ranging from Lady Gaga gigs to cinema screenings and national and international sporting events. The local community can use the facilities such as the water park when the elite aren’t competing.
But for a long while, the Olympic Park risked becoming a white elephant – no long-term plan for its redevelopment materialised until five years after the Games finished. Nowadays, there are tours of the ANZ stadium three times a day, including a chance to run through the tunnel and pose for a photo on the medal podium, or you could visit Cathy Freeman Park to see the Olympic Cauldron for free.
Overall, the Sydney 2000 Games are remembered as a happy Olympics. Travel writer Bill Bryson certainly thought so, saying: "I don't wish in my giddiness to overstate matters, but I invite you to suggest a more successful event anywhere in the peacetime history of mankind." High praise indeed.
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