Well, from where we were in the Olympic stadium, we could see a giant TV screen (Pete from Aylesbury, my housemate, actually helped to install them as part of his job). So we saw all the action, from Olivia John and John Barnes singing, Tina Arena with ‘The Flame’ song and Amorosis ‘Heroes Live Forever’, which is the bit when a giant white sheet dropped over the south stand and covered the audience, making its way to the field of play and images were projected over on to it, including athletes’ images and the dove of peace. Everyone was excited by this point to see who was going to carry the flame. The torchbearers are always kept top secret so no one knows who is going to do the biggie of lighting the cauldron until the last possible moment.
By this time, we found it hard to keep the athletes contained in their ‘pen’, with lots wanting to get out and go off to the loo. It was a long time for them to wait, some 2.5 hours on their feet and they did get restless. Then the moment came when Herb Elliott ran the torch to the stadium and five of the Aussie great athletes took turns to run it on its final lap of glory. These were all women and mainly swimmers, including Betty Cuthbert and Dawn Fraser. This was because it was 100 years of women at the games. Go girls!
And then the moment of moments came… and there was Cathy Freeman standing in a white flame resistant bodysuit – she appeared as if by magic holding the torch and she took it up to the steps of the cauldron and stood in the middle of a circle of water. I watched her live, over the athletes’ heads and my God. You could see the emotion surging over her face on the screens. Anyone who was not affected by that is not alive, but having been here since April 2000 and followed the news, politics etc, the march for reconciliation etc, I think I appreciated it all the more. For this was a statement about Australians for Australians. It will have gone over a lot of viewers’ heads. ‘Who is Cathy Freeman?’ ‘Only a silver medalist’ etc etc. Simon, a lad I work with in the Athletes’ village, said the only reason she did it was because she was Aboriginee. I said, ‘And?’ Australian politics have come a long way in just one year; people’s attitudes are changing and they need to. The backlash with the press at home (in the UK) is that the whole Opening Ceremony was more about political correctness than anything; no kangaroos on bicycles like at the handover at Atlanta which caused an uproar.
At the end I had my photo taken in the stadium and I hope they came out OK. I got separated from the girls I was stood with and ended up walking out behind Matt Shrivington (Aussie athletics hopeful), the Aussie team and then past the US Dream Team (Basketball) who were signing autographs. Apparently they are very famous! I couldn’t help thinking, is some of this wasted on me?! Anyway, I was buzzing, and got home and had to go to the pub/beach to celebrate. Didn’t get home til 6am in the morning. Who could sleep after that?! What a fantastic day!
Note from blogger:
(I should note the rest of these diary entries are recorded further back in this blog, and written by my eager 21 year old self. I’m not sure what you’ll make of it, but there’s nothing like the enthusiasm of youth, that's for sure.)