So the London Olympic games are almost here. The arrival of each new Olympic Games brings back a lot of memories for me, both of attending the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, but also working for three years for the Olympic Security Command Centre (OSCC). It was the most interesting, most rewarding and most stressful job I have ever had. Interesting because of all the things I learnt and saw and experienced, rewarding because of the team I worked with and all the things I accomplished, and stressful because of that one unmoving deadline that we all had to meet.
So, what is it like to have an Olympic Games in your city? Well it was a lot different from what many people expected. I know so many Sydney-Siders who convinced themselves that Sydney was going to be a logistical nightmare and who decided to go away on holiday instead. But the opposite was true. Sydney during the Games was a wonderful place. For those two weeks I honestly think Sydney was the best place on earth. The mood was wonderful. Everyone was happy and it was like a giant party, 24/7. The city looked beautiful, everything was clean, and all the trains ran on time. This was a city of our imaginations made true, where everything worked and everything was perfect.
My personal experience of the Olympics wasn’t quite as perfect. It started off well. We had tickets to a dress rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony, which was kind of a perfect way to see it. This meant we had both the experience of seeing the Opening Ceremony in the stadium, but also of the real thing on TV a couple of days later. I liked both experiences equally. But our sporting experience was less than perfect. We started out by watching Pat Rafter play one of the worse games of tennis I have ever seen, and the next night we watched an extremely boring game of hockey between Canada and Great Britain. We then had tickets to the swimming where we fully expected Ian Thorpe and Susie O’Neil to win gold medals, but they both lost. We were devastated. All we wanted to do was experience singing the national anthem at one event, and it looked like it would never happen.
There was only one last chance. Cathy Freeman in the 400m final in the Olympic Stadium. I almost didn’t make it. I don’t know if it was the relief of getting to the Olympics without having a nervous break-down, or if it was being exposed to germs from all around the world, but I was feeling a bit crook that night. No way was I going to miss it, though.
We watched nervously as the race started. With a staggered start, it felt as if Cathy was miles behind the rest of the field. Even as she ran towards us down the back straight in her one-piece running suit, she looked like she was going to lose. But then, as she ran past us, right in front of the place where she had lit the Olympic Cauldron a week or so earlier, she made her move. And that’s when it happened – the loudest sound I’ve ever heard. I have no other words to describe the sound of 100,000 people rising to their feat and screaming. It felt as if that impossibly loud noise simply lifted her up and carried her over the line and into history. I will never forget that noise, and the feeling of elation that swept over the crowd. And we got to sing the National Anthem at an Olympics!
But all good things must come to an end. The next day I came down with a combined dose of tonsillitis, laryngitis and bronchitis. I almost fainted in the doctor’s office and he ordered me to stay in bed for a week and pumped me full of antibiotics. After helping to plan the Olympic Games for three years, I spent the second half of the Games ill in bed, running a fever, and feeling just about as awful as I ever have. I felt like I had let my team down.
I think the same thing happened to Sydney after the Games. There was no way we could uphold that level of perfection, and Sydney soon slipped back into being that frustrating but beautiful place we know and love, and sometimes love to hate. We’d had our time in the spotlight, and to be honest, I think we’re all still in a bit of a post-Games funk, even 12 years later. We all know that Sydney will never be that great again, and we’re still sulking about it. I hope we get over it one day. I hope we can take some of the energy from the loudest noise I’ve ever heard and make Sydney come alive again.
What are your favourite Olympic memories? Have you ever attended the Olympic Games?
Images by Ian @ ThePaperboy.com via Wikimedia Commons.
John James has written 203 posts.
JJ is a blogger who is bored with traditional opinion blogging. He is a co-founder and editor at KiKi & Tea. He also represents the grumpy middle-aged man demographic on KiKi & Tea. He is a writer by trade and a frustrated rock star / crime fighter by night, and blogs about music at newmusicrevue.com.
Follow on twitter: @JohnJamesOZ