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Sydney 2000 – the time of our lives 15 years ago

13 September 2015

SYDNEY 2000: We are less than 12 months away from the first ever Olympic Games in South America. What an exciting time it will be in the land of the Carnivale and RIO’s magic strip of golden sand and surf.

This week we are celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Sydney Olympics, when Australia welcomed the world to our shores.

We showcased our harbour, the bridge, the Opera House and our beaches, particularly Bondi.

15 years on we reflect on the joy and excitement of hosting the Olympic Games and the lasting memories generated on and off the field of play.

The Sydney 2000 Olympics will long be remembered for the outpouring of national pride, the friendliness Australians showed towards their fellow citizens and overseas visitors and the remarkable achievements of our young athletes.

The arrival of the Olympic Torch on our shores generated this sense of mateship, warmth and goodwill and by the time the flame reached Sydney all Australians had been touched by the Olympic spirit.

This was truly a special time in our lives. A time we will never forget.

Our Team won 58 medals, 16 gold, 25 silver, and 17 bronze. Our small country staged what the IOC President, Juan Antonio Samaranch called the "greatest Games of all".

People often ask me what was the highlight? Was it Cathy Freeman, the humble indigenous champion who lit the flame on that famous night in September and then carried the weight of the nation on her shoulders as she powered to the line in the 400m?

For me the highlight was not on the arena, it was outside. Walking through the thousands of people each day waiting for their events, the smiles and the laughter. I have never witnessed a happier time. Seeing Australians singing the national anthem on the bus and the train on the way to Homebush and on the way home. Strangers arm in arm. There was no aggro, there was no trouble.

Discrimination of all kinds, racial, religious, political, all that nonsense, was forgotten for those few magic weeks.

The volunteers did the nation proud. They were certainly a highlight. They oozed Aussie charm. Doctors, engineers, solicitors, teachers, they came from all walks of life and were happy to open and shut doors, drive cars , sweep and clean from sun up to sundown. They all deserved gold but all were satisfied with a simple thank you and the odd Olympic pin.

The Australian Team was led by basketballer, Andrew Gaze. When he was announced as the flag bearer and was handed the Australian flag by Prime Minister John Howard he was so proud I thought he was going to burst.

In the Village, John Williamson sang songs at the Team barbecues which were held in what we dubbed “Boxing Kangaroo square”. Thorpie and other superstars sang along with Laurie Lawrence. Booze was banned in the Village but after she won her silver medal, and as the Games drew to a close, Tatiana arrived at the security checkpoint at the back gate off Silverwater Road with a carton of VB over her shoulder. What do you do? You tell the sergeant in charge to let her in, which he did.

It was all a dream, and one you didn’t want to end.

Mike Tancred

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