Olympic flame ignites a Games to remember

Following a lengthy journey by land, sea and air across the whole of the Oceania region, the Olympic flame finally arrived in Sydney’s Olympic Stadium on Friday 15 September 2000.  

It was carried around the stadium by six Australian sporting legends: Betty Cuthbert, Raelene Boyle, Dawn Fraser, Shirley Strickland de la Hunty, Shane Gould and Debbie Flintoff-King. The latter then passed the flame on to one of the greatest legends of them all, Cathy Freeman.

After climbing a flight of stairs, the 400m star made her way to the centre of a pool of water before lighting a partially submerged ring around her. The Olympic cauldron then rose from the water, above Freeman and into the night sky, a spectacular sight that marked the start of the Games of the XXVII Olympiad.

The atmosphere as the Games unfolded over those next two weeks was truly amazing. Sydney lived and breathed the Olympics, with the giant screen that had been set up at Circular Quay, in the shadow of the city’s famous Opera House, attracting huge crowds around the clock, day after day.

The Sydney Games, which saw the Olympic debuts of triathlon, taekwondo and women’s weightlifting and pole vaulting, produced no shortage of memorable moments:

·         The swimming events at the Olympic Park in Homebush Bay brought the host nation a string of medals, with the peerless Australian star Ian Thorpe leading the way.

·         Cuban boxer Felix Savon won his third consecutive men’s heavyweight gold, a feat matched by Greek weightlifter Pyrros Dimas in the 85kg category.

·         Dutch cyclist Leontien Van Moorsel scored a hat-trick of her own in winning the women’s road race, time trial and 3km pursuit, while France’s Felicia Ballanger claimed a golden sprint and time trial double on the track at the Dunc Gray Velodrome. 

·         In tennis Venus and Serena Williams won their first of their three Olympic women’s doubles titles, and in track and field Great Britain’s silver-haired triple-jump world record holder Jonathan Edwards finally claimed gold at the fourth attempt.

·         On the wrestling mat, Russia’s legendary three-time Greco-Roman champion Alexandre Kareline was surprisingly beaten by USA’s Rulon Gardner.

·         On the rowing lake, Sir Steven Redgrave secured his fifth consecutive gold for Team GB in the coxless fours.

·         Meanwhile, Cameroon registered an unlikely win over Spain in the men’s football final.

On 25 September, 10 days after lighting the cauldron, Cathy Freeman made a triumphant return to the Olympic Stadium, crossing the line first in the women’s 400m final to trigger ecstatic celebrations in the 110,000 capacity crowd.

A sporting celebration high on colour, fun and music came to a spectacular end at the Closing Ceremony, when a giant firework made its way across Sydney Harbour from the Olympic Stadium and lit up the iconic Harbour Bridge. 

Happy anniversary, Sydney!