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October 1, 2000
Adieu!The Rediff Team
Perhaps it is our own fault, that we can never really let go, reveal emotion when it matters.
And perhaps that is why every closing ceremony report is laden with cliches on the 'all good things come to an end in time' lines.
Still on that thought, perhaps then the way to play it is to detail what happened -- and leave unsaid all that stuff about what an emotional moment it was, how athletes had tears in their eyes, how the celebration of sport over the last 15 days was unprecedented, et al...
With 110,000 people counting down to the opening... 5....4....3...2....1.........0.... the proceedings kicked off with the Australian Defence Force band -- 48 trumpets, 8 cymbalists, 12 drummers -- playing the "Games 2000 Fanfare".
The giant screens then lit up with the 'Let's Party' message -- like the crowd needed an invite -- and Christine Anu, surrounded by 36 dancers, launched into her trademark ditty, "My Island Home".
And then -- continuing the tradition begun in the Melbourne Games -- the athletes then marched (perhaps danced would be the better word) into the arena they had lit with their deeds, forgetting national barriers and entering en masse, from the four entrances. One joyous stream of the top sports talent in the world, while the giant screens flashed capsules of their deeds.
Even as they poured in to the centre of the field, Australia's top pop group Savage Garden took over, with lead singer Darren Hayes and lead guitarist Daniel Jones holding the spotlight in a vervy rendition of their most recent hit, Affirmation.
Hayes appears to have taken it on himself to continue the symbolism of Cathy Freeman lighting the torch 15 days ago -- his T shirt had the Aboriginal flag blazed on it. Was it just coincidence, or was Hayes making a further point when, on centre-stage, he went on his knees to sing that portion of the song, with special emphasis, that went "I believe the sun should never set on upon an argument, I believe we place our happiness in other people's hands..."?
Followed the speeches. First, President of the Sydney Games Organising Committee Michael Knight, thanking the athletes and pretty much everyone he could think of. Then Juan Antonio Samaranch, shrugging off the demise of his wife in a peppy speech wherein, right at the outset, he took the crowd with him in the chant of Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi that has reverberated through Sydney through the last 15 days. And he wasn't done yet -- starting with his statement that this was his last Olympics, Samaranch brought the house down when he said, "Sydney, you have presented to us the best Olympic Games ever!"
He then presented Michael Knight with the Olympic order. And the Olympic Cup to the people of Sydney. Cue for the biggest cheers yet.
Samaranch then introduced the eight athletes elected to represent the athletes of the world, on the IOC panel. Sergei Bubka gets cheers. Alexander Popov, ditto. And Susie O'Neill, Australia's very own Madame Butterfly, brings the house down.
Sydney's Lord Mayor, Frank Sartor, then hands over the Olympic flag to Samaranch, who in turn pases it to the Lord Mayor of Athens, Dimitris L. Avramopoulos. Athens will host the next games, in 2004.
And then, seen for the first time ever outside their native Greece, the high priestesses of Olympia. 23 of them, arriving in Sydney to officially offer thanksgiving for a successful Games, and prepare the way for the return of the Olympics to its native land in 2004. In a short, simple ceremony that ends with the official acceptance by the Athens delegation of the Olympic flag.
It is finally the priestesses who accept the flag from Avramopoulos, and bear it off the stage. The head priestess holds the olive wreath high -- and to think that there was a time when this wreath was all that an Olympic victor got for his efforts. Today, it is medals, and more importantly, multi-million dollar endorsement packages. I wonder -- in Athens in 2004, will they decide to bring back tradition, and crown each victor with the wreath of honour?
Samaranch then declared the Games of the 27th Olympiad closed. And, as per tradition, called upon "the youth of the world to assemble, four years from now, in Athens, Greece, to celebrate the Games of the 28th Olympiad". Duty done, he marched off, with a final Au Revoir.... marking the end of his two-decades-plus reign as boss of the Olympic movement.
Opera star Yvonne Kenny then sings the Olympic anthem, in tune to which members of the Australian Defence Force lowers the Olympic flag from the mast on which it has been flying since the opening ceremony. In case all these flags confuse you -- the one handed over to Athens earlier in the programme is the official one, the one that flies on the mast is a weatherproof version that duplicates the original, but is replaceable.
The flag well and truly down, focus shifted to the Olympic cauldron. 13-year-old Nikki Webster, Australia's favourite nymphet, dressed in sheer white enhancing the Lolita effect, and raised high on a glass stage just below the cauldron, belted out "We'll be One".
As she finished, an F111 fighter bomber zoomed through high overhead. And as it went, it swooped low over the cauldron. On cue, flames sprang from the fighter itself as it zoomed into the night, creating the illusion that it had picked up the Olympic flame and carried it out onto the waters of the river nearby. Another fighter joined in, dumping fuel which it ignited as a spectacular prelude to a fireworks display -- just the first of many scheduled for the night.
Against the flash-bang-crackle of pyrotechnics, a geo-dome of steel and glass descended from the heavens, to deposit Vanessa Amorosi on stage. Long-legged dancers on stage with her, alien-seeming robotic figures moving about on the athletic track as backdrop, the assembled athletes in the centre dancing and increasingly getting into the party mood, all to the strains of Amorosi's 'Absolutely Everybody'.
While the crowds in the stadium rocked to Amorosi, those outside freaked to fireworks displays rolling out in a spectacular chain, all the way back to city-centre, via Darling Harbour. The highlight being the Harbour Bridge, exploding with colour and light in a display that quite easily beat the one that marked the opening ceremony.
The 110,000 people packed into Stadium Australia sounds big -- but the real monster crowd is the one collectively assembled at various vantage points through the city and surrounds, in front of giant screens relaying the action. A brilliant concept -- the giant, open-air, non-stop party, ranging from Pyrmont Bay Park, Tumbalong Park, Circular Quay, Martin Place (easily the party headquarters, with two giant screens), Belmore Park, Mrs Macquaries Chair, Dawes Point, Blues Point Reserve, Bradfield Park and the forecourt of the famed Sydney Opera House.
Cue in John Paul Young, to sing Love is In The Air -- the song that shot him to fame, taken from the soundtrack of the 1992 Aussie feature film Strictly Ballroom. 1000 dancing couples, the girls in flourescent skirts that look striking in the dark, dance around the track, and the assembled athletes get into the mood of things by forming the most enormous conga-line you ever saw. Leading the dancers is Australia's best known ballroom dancers, Jason Gilikson and Peta Roby.
The partying continues, with INXS on next. Minus Michael Hutchence, but featuring Jon Stevens as lead singer and doing fine fronting the band in a hard rendition of 'What you need'. With flashing hand-held torches, and assorted gizmos, the crowd's getting into it by this point, and Stadium Australia begins to look like the largest disco in the world.
Next up, Aussie rock great Jimmy Barnes, and "Working Class Man". It would appear that the theme for the party is Aussie music greats singing their signature tunes.
Next up, Midnight Oil with Peter Garrett fronting it in "Beds are Burning". "How can we dance when our earth is turning? How do we sleep while our beds are burning?"
The stadium's on fire with the flashing torches, the athletes are like kids as giants balloons in every shape and size descend on them and are batted around...
Next up, the native flavour, with Australia's famed indigenous band Yothu Yindi and "Treaty". with a mas of guys and gals in native costume rocking on the track.
And then Kylie Minogue -- dressed in a costume identical to the one worn by Nikki Webster on opening night. Nikki grows into Kylie? The Aussie pop diva signing the Abba hit "Dancing Queen" -- and jiving brilliantly as she sings.
Next up, a great white shark balloon -- with the original Great White Shark, Greg Norman, on top, teeing off. The Australian Parade of Immortals kicks into high gear.
Next up, Elle 'The Body' McPherson, Australia's most famous supermodel. On what looks like a camera, with a huge zoom lens on which Elle catwalks to the strains of Dont Call Me Baby.
Paul Hogan the Crocodile Dundee man, up next, on what looks like a giant shark -- or is it just a hat with teeth?
Next up, the Drag Queens, Sydney's tribute to the gay movement/ With Vanessa Wagner and Cindy Pastel leading, to the tune of "Finally".
And then the finale -- Men at Work, Kylie Minogue, Nikki Webster and just about every other singer Australia ever produced, up on stage singing Land Down Under... and everyone, just about everyone, in the stands, on the ground, athletes and performers and officials, a city on its toes, dancing...
Which is the perfect image, and moment, to leave on....
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