20 Years Since Sydney 2000 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony
The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) is celebrating 20 years since the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games today with a ceremony at Sydney Olympic Park.
The Olympic cauldron will be relit to mark the occasion. The ceremony will take place between 7.45am-8.30am followed by media conferences.
The Games, dubbed “the greatest Games ever”, formally commenced with an Opening Ceremony Friday September 15th 2000, culminating in Catherine Freeman lighting the Olympic cauldron at Sydney Olympic Park.
Today that iconic moment is being replicated with a ceremony at Sydney Olympic Park, featuring two young athletes representing Olympic and Paralympic sports.
AOC President and IOC Vice President John Coates says the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games were life-changing for Australians and certainly for him personally.
“Sydney 2000 really was the most amazing and exciting time of my life. It was a great privilege.
“The things that stand out for me were obviously the great sporting moments and the great performances by members of our Team, both in team sports and the inspiring individual performances.
“The Opening Ceremony with Catherine Freeman lighting the cauldron and then her famous victory in the 400 metres remains the most significant memory for me.
Catherine Freeman admits that when asked to perform the role by John Coates, she had her doubts.
“When Coatsey asked me to do the honours, I was really taken aback. There were a few other people who I thought were so deserving of the honour. At the time, I was also being more concerned with my body’s health and making sure I was getting enough rest.
“It wasn’t until I got to Sydney in those days before Opening Ceremony that I started to think OK I have to be in this moment.”
“When I reflect back on lighting the cauldron 20 years ago, the words that come to my mind are “surreal” and just simply “magnificent”.
“I am very proud of the fact that when I lit the cauldron all those years ago it was a symbol of hope for all young Australians. It is at times like this that I simply reflect and I wonder at the power of sport and the difference that sport can make in our lives.”
With Catherine Freeman unable to attend in person today due to COVID restrictions in Melbourne, she handed the baton to future generations. Louise Sauvage, who will attend in person today, also looked to the future.
The Paralympic legend won two gold medals at the Sydney Paralympic Games, as well as picking up a gold in the Paralympic demonstration event during the Sydney Olympic Games.
“Lighting the cauldron at the Sydney Paralympic Games was one of the proudest moments of my life and even after 20 years, I’m excited to watch it being relit by our next generation, and relive the memories from that incredible time which still fill me with so much pride.
“Australia showed the world how Paralympic athletes and Paralympic sport should be recognised. Together we created the benchmark for every Paralympic Games since,” Sauvage said.
Young athletes, Tenayah Logan, a 16-year-old basketballer with the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) program and Tamsin Colley, who competed at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games as a 14 year old in athletics, will complete today’s ceremony when they raise their Olympic and Paralympic torches to reignite the cauldron in Cathy Freeman Park.
Ian Thorpe, Australia’s most successful athlete in Sydney with three gold medals and two silver, says not walking in the Opening Ceremony is something every swimmer has to face but being selected as the flag bearer for the closing ceremony was a real privilege.
“For me, I was never going to be able to walk in the Opening Ceremony and be in my best shape to be able to compete, so to be able to carry the flag in the Closing Ceremony most definitely made up for it, especially knowing how the country had received the Olympic Games and to see how much support there was.
“Australia and Sydney really did an incredible job of not only showing what sport can be for Australians, but what it can be for the rest of the world and the rest of the world still looks at us when it comes to the Olympics because of how successful the Sydney Olympics were,” Thorpe said.
Andrew Gaze, captain of the Australian men’s basketball team the Boomers, and flagbearer for the Australian Olympic Team in 2000, is also unable to attend in person as he is in lockdown in Melbourne. He says he was surprised and thrilled when asked to lead the Australian Team out.
“There was talk prior to the 2000 Olympics about me being a candidate, but I never really took it that seriously, but it was nice to be recognized as someone worthy of that honour.
“There's no doubt in my mind I was chosen because of longevity. It was my fifth Olympic Games and because the family history, I think that had a significant bearing on the choice.
“I wouldn't say I was nervous it was it was a really unique feeling. Clearly the honour of being the captain of the team, not just a basketball team, the entire Olympic Team was something very, very special. But that thrill of being able to introduce our athletes to the world and carry the Australian flag and hear the roar of the fans to kick off that 2000 Olympic campaign was something special,” Gaze said.
Rechelle Hawkes said from her home in Perth, that being chosen to recite the Athlete’s Oath during the Opening Ceremony was a unique honour and a wonderful precursor to leading the Hockeyroos to their gold medal.
“I remember vividly, it was the day prior to the flag raising ceremony and the manager came to the back of the Olympic village.
“He knocked on the door and said can you go out and see Chef De Mission, John Coates. So I walked up there and wasn't quite sure what he was going to ask, but then he delivered the message that Andrew Gaze would be the flagbearer and he would like me to read the Oath, and I was very excited.
“Then I was told I could invite family to come along to the Opening Ceremony and it was pretty special moment and very nerve wracking, but it was a really nice thing to be able to do and get out in front of the rest of the country that we're representing,” Hawkes concluded.
The Opening competition of the Sydney Games actually occurred two days earlier when Nigeria played Honduras in Adelaide in a preliminary men’s football match, followed later that day when Australia’s men’s team, the Olyroos, played Italy in Melbourne, while Australia’s women’s team, the Matildas, played Germany in Adelaide.
Timing of Tuesday’s ceremony
7.45am Welcome from Channel Seven’s Mark Beretta
Acknowledgement of Country – John Hunter
Hon Dr Geoff Lee MP, Acting Minister for Sport, representing the Premier
8.00am John Coates AC – AOC President & IOC Vice President
Lynne Anderson – CEO Paralympics Australia
Ian Thorpe AM – Sydney 2000 Olympian & Closing Ceremony Flag Bearer
Louise Sauvage OAM – Sydney 2000 Paralympian, lit the Paralympic cauldron
8.20am – Tenayah Logan and Tamsin Colley relight the cauldron.
8.30am – Media Conferences
11.00am – Zoom media conference for Andrew Gaze and Rechelle Hawkes