OPINION: Decades later, legacy of ‘best games’ lives on

Peter FiorenzaGeraldton Guardian
The Olympic Rings are erected on the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the lead up to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
Camera IconThe Olympic Rings are erected on the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the lead up to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Credit: Nick Wilson/Getty Images

I vividly remember the great event that was the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.

It was the culmination of years and years of planning and resulted in something that made the nation so very proud.

And the Australian team simply shone with all the gold medals, culminating in the fairytale victory of sprinter Cathy Freeman in the 400m.

It, indeed, was a magical time.

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The 2000 Olympics was a great boon for Australia, which became a “must-see” destination for travellers from all over the world.

And if my recent trip to Sydney is any indication, visitors have not stopped coming.

One thing that really stood out for me during my stay, was the number of Americans around the place.

Circular Quay and Darling Harbour were, simply, full of them.

Now, this fascinated me because we don’t see many Americans in WA.

I asked a Sydney taxi driver about it.

“You know what I think?” he said.

“When most Americans think of Australia, they probably think of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and cuddling a koala, and they can do that all here.”

He went on to say tourists can also see the quintessential example of our beach culture at the iconic Bondi.

The day I travelled to Bondi Beach, it was a nice sunny day but, gee, it was crowded.

I found out later that on any one day, the famed stretch of yellow sand attracts an average of 35,000 visitors.

That is pretty mind-boggling and from what I saw, a majority of those taking a dip were not locals.

It was, without doubt, a global microcosm.

Talking about the 2000 Olympic Games, my accommodation in the NSW capital was actually at a place called Olympic Park.

A little out of the CBD, Olympic Park is about a 30-minute train ride out west, near Parramatta.

It, in fact, is the remnants of the Olympic village, home to the former Olympic stadium and tennis centre (Ken Rosewall Arena), along with a number of well-presented sporting grounds, serviced by a very swanky train station.

I’m not certain but pretty sure the apartment my friends and I stayed in would have been home to athletes in September 2000.

On the side of a hill nearby, you can see where the five rings rested for all to see, although they are faded now.

And the streets are aptly titled; Herb Elliot, Murray Rose and Dawn Fraser avenues, along with Rod Laver Drive, to name a few.

Although apartments, technology parks and restaurants and cafes now take up the space, the transformation means the “Best Games ever” will be never forgotten.

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