National pride and a buggered cauldron | Day 1 of Sydney 2000
The opening ceremony, with Ric Birch as director of ceremonies and David Atkins as artistic director, was universally hailed as a triumph back in the Australian summer of 2000.
New stars Vanessa Amorosi and Nikki Webster soared into the proud beating hearts of Australians and the world as the awed the fauna and flora of the Aussie lands, seas, rivers and skies.
It was a celebration of First Australians, and the federation to the modern era.
Famous singers Tina Arena, John Farnham and Olivia Newton-John along with Human Nature and the swinging sounds of James Morrison dazzled the world.
We go alright…
The Olympic Flag was carried around the arena by eight former Australian Olympic champions: Bill Roycroft, Murray Rose, Liane Tooth, Gillian Rolton, Marjorie Jackson, Lorraine Crapp, Michael Wenden and Nick Green. During the raising of the Olympic flag, the Olympic Hymn was sung in Greek by the Millennium Choir of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia.
The crowning moment came when Cathy Freeman lit the cauldron, with her choice for the honour kept at top secret (most thought it would be beloved swimmer and Melbourne Olympic Champion Dawn Fraser). The final stretch and lighting of the cauldron was performed by famous female Australian Olympians to mark 100 years of women in the Olympics.
Cathy Freeman would go on to make even more history, but there will be more on that as the 2000 anniversary progresses here on FNX.
When it was time for the athletes to come out, most nations entered under a music piece played by the Millenium Marching Band. The band consisted of 1000 Australian musicians, with the remaining 1000 musicians being from other countries around the world. The massed band was so large that six conductors were required for the segment. In 2008 it was revealed the Millenium Marching Band was the only live music played during the ceremony.
Basketballer Andrew Gaze was the Australian flagbearer, in 2020 he revealed he was told at the last minute it was tradition to dip the flag to the dignitaries… but in the moment after marching out he lost track of where they were so dipped the flag whenever he felt someone important was nearby. Hockeyroos great Rechelle Hawkes took the athletes oath, she can recite most of it to this day.
A total of 200 national Olympic committees participated at the Sydney Games, a record at the time. North and South Korea marched under a united flag and announced by the stadium announcer (and famous Australian actor) John Statton as Korea.
Oh and the cauldron stalled after rising from the water and, in 2010, according to Michael Knight (the Olympic Minister at the time) it was running on fumes by the time it got to the top… but keep that a secret.
The cauldron today is a fountain in Cathy Freeman Park still within the Sydney Olympic Park it rose over for that famous fortnight.
On 15th of September 2020 it was relit for the 20th anniversary.