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.
The 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.
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.
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:
Here is the USA 100m relay team going around after winning the gold medal:
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!
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
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!!!
All photos taken by Carole Riley and Keith Bassett.