Sydney 2000 Olympics, 10 years on

Harbour Bridge during the Sydney 2000 OlympicsToday is the 10th anniversary of the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. It really doesn’t seem that long ago. The radio has been full of it all week, and the TV today.

I have nothing but happy memories of the two weeks of the Games, and the two weeks of the Paralympics afterwards.

Earlier in the year when the hoopla was gearing up I thought the best to do would be to escape from Sydney. My husband, bless him, knew better and went into the draw for tickets. And what tickets they were! The last day of the swimming finals, the football final, some athletics, some volleyball, and some diving.

The working population of Sydney was encouraged to take holidays if possible to reduce the demand on the public transport system, so I opted to ‘work from home’. I think I actually did some work, too. Mostly I was watching, or listening, to the Olympic Games. I remember sitting in the computer room with my laptop dialled in to the office with the TV on in the next room.

An added benefit of holding the Games on the east coast of Australia was that we could watch them on TV in real time without having to stay up all night, and I did more Olympic TV watching than I ever have before. Or since.

Olympic crowdsThe atmosphere in Sydney for the few days leading up to the Opening Ceremony and the weeks of the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games was amazing. Everyone was happy and friendly and proud. The place was full of tourists and we were happy for them to be here and proud of our city. It is difficult to describe the vibe. The many people who decided to get out of Sydney missed out on something very special.

We attended the Opening Ceremony Rehearsal the night before the Opening Ceremony itself. It was absolutely incredible! We were so proud to be Australian that night! We’d all been a bit appalled by the blow-up kangaroos on bikes at the Closing Ceremony of the Atlanta Games and we were almost holding our breath to see what they would come up with.

It was spectacular, from the moment the stock horses came thundering into the stadium.

Man from Snowy RiverThe Aboriginal welcome ceremony was moving and very real.

There was floating sea creatures, lawnmowers and garden sheds, tap-dancers with Blundstone boots, and we loved every minute of it. The whole night was exactly the same as the actual Opening Ceremony except that there were school children marching around and assembling in the centre instead of athletes, and the cauldron wasn’t lit. The kids were so happy, and we cheered them all on.

We got 4 tickets to a Volleyball game because my brother-in-law used to play representative volleyball at school. My mother won 2 tickets to the same game, so we were able to give my sister our 4 tickets for 2 of the children to go, and my husband and I used Mum’s 2 tickets.

The diving, which is one of the few sports I’d always liked to watch on TV, is better watched on TV. We were seated down the other end from where the action was and could see very little.

Athletic heats Day 13

We enjoyed the day we went to the Athletics so much that I had my first experience of eBay looking for more tickets. I got 2 tickets to one of the Finals sessions from someone in the United States, and they arrived by courier only that afternoon. We were a bit late but not too late. We were sitting very close to the front, surrounded by Americans.

This is the Women’s 200m Final:

Women's 200m Final

Here is the USA 100m relay team going around after winning the gold medal:

4x100m men's final

Earlier that day we went to the Football Final. We call it soccer in Australia, and I had never been to a soccer game, or watched one on TV, in my life. Cameroon was playing Spain, and most of the crowd, or certainly the Aussies in the crowd, were cheering for the ‘Roonies’. When there was a 2-all draw after extra time we were treated to the spectacle of a penalty shootout. The Spanish looked very tense, and the Roonies were casually lying about on the grass. The Roonies won and it was very exciting!Cameroon

I had never really understood the need to actually be at the game until that day. The noise and excitement of 120,000 cheering people is something I will never forget. I can even understand the attraction to soccer, although I would never admit this to my Rugby League Fan husband.

We’d also done the Swimming Finals that day. The 1500m Men’s Final was won by Grant Hackett, but I was really hoping that Keiran Perkins would win again. At the end the teams came out and the Aussies

Olympic flame

All I remember about the Closing Ceremony, which we watched on TV, was Peter Garrett and his SORRY T-shirt, and the Greek chorus in Athens.

And then life went back to normal. I went back to work in the office. The trains went back to their normal schedule.

The Paralympics were famous for the enormous school groups that sang the Australian National Anthem at gold medal ceremonies. I went twice and had a wonderful time. My company gave us a night in the corporate box for the athletics, and we saw Louise Sauvage win a gold medal. At least I remember it that way.

Except for finals you could drop in and out of any event, and I did. I can’t even remember the names of some of the sports now. The most exciting is definitely the wheelchair basketball – those guys are maniacs!

I have a lot of great memories of the Games. I’ve kept all the guides from the newspaper, and the DVD of the Opening Ceremony. I’ve got an album of photos, tickets and other paraphernalia, and I’m sure I still have a couple of T-shirts.  I also have a dark orange Sydney Olympics DrizaBone that I have never worn since.

It was a great time in our history and I’m so glad I was here to see it. Aussie Aussie Aussie!!!

Carole and Keith in the Olympic Stadium

All photos taken by Carole Riley and Keith Bassett.

Where you were on Nine-Eleven?

This post was first published as a Facebook note in response to a friend’s note about where she was on the 11th September 2001.

Australia is 14 hours ahead of the east coast of the United States. When it happened it was already the night of that day here. We started the video recording The West Wing, which didn’t start until 10:30pm, and went to bed.

The next morning my husband got up before I did, as usual. This time he came back downstairs almost immediately and said ‘Something’s happened.’ He’d been listening to the radio and turned the TV on to see. By this time it was all over. If we’d stayed up to watch The West Wing we would have seen the first news break.

Eventually we went to work. I worked at that time in a 23-story office building on the Pacific Highway in North Sydney. I was on Level 9, with a desk against the window overlooking the Highway. I could see the sky beyond the buildings across the road.

Everyone in the building was in shock. Very little work was done that day. I vividly remember looking in horror out the window with another woman as a plane came quite low through the sky towards us, which they rarely did. We both held our breaths. We didn’t seriously think that the plane was going to hit us, and of course it just flew over the top of the building. It was the visual image of an aeroplane at that angle. Usually when you see a plane in the sky it’s going from one side to the other, not flying towards you with wings visible on either side. It was months, perhaps years, before seeing a plane flying towards me like that didn’t make me hold my breath.

Even after a few days of seeing the footage of the planes hitting the World Trade Centre over and over again it was still horrifying to watch. It still makes me hold my breath now, although thankfully the TV stations stopped showing it so often.

One night, perhaps the next night, we sat down to watch the episode of The West Wing that we had recorded, and we saw the news break and how little information there was to begin with. They said a plane had hit one of the towers and they thought it was a little bi-plane or something. By the end of The West Wing there was more information, and whatever they had scheduled after that was abandoned as more information, and then the horrifying film footage as it happened, came in. The video had kept recording as I had just hit the ‘record’ button instead of setting the timer.

There were Australians in the buildings that day. Some got out, some didn’t. There were all nationalities, all religions, all ages. The numbers kept going up, and then down as more people were accounted for. It didn’t really matter what nationality or religion they were. We will always remember them, and where we were when we heard the news.

Australia Day family history events

It’s Australia Day, and I was inspired by Shelley’s blog to find out what happening on this day in my own family’s past.

Here are the highlights:

1616 – Eleanor Nicholas, my 9th great grandmother, was baptised in St Keverne, Cornwall.

1823 – Martha Miles, my 3rd great-grandmother, was baptised in the Wesleyan Methodist Church at Towcester, Northamptonshire. She married George Goode from Yardley Hastings, Northamptonshire and they migrated to New South Wales with their two young daughters.

1840 – James Pascoe, baby brother of my 3rd great-grandfather Henry Pascoe of St Keverne, Cornwall, was baptised. He died unmarried  when he was only 31.

1865 – Grace Pascoe nee Oates, my 3rd great-grandmother, her daughter Bessie, and her mother Elizabeth Oates nee Williams arrived in Sydney on the Hornet from Plymouth as assisted immigrants, eventually joining their brothers and sons in the Millthorpe area of New South Wales. Eleanor Nicholas was her 4th great-grandmother.

2008 – dear Uncle Ray passed away after a long illness.

For all but the last one there was no ‘Australia’, let alone Australia Day.

To find out how I got the list out of my family tree software, see this blog.