Saturday, September 16, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Millennium Olympics off to spectacular start

SYDNEY, Sept 15 (UNI) — A fabulous collage of the fifth continent’s culture and tradition, music that ranged from the classical to techno and brilliantly choreographed performances gave the first Olympic Games of the millennium a spectacular take-off at Stadium Australia here today.

An audience of 110,000 people stayed enthralled throughout the three-hour opening ceremony as Australia lived up to its promise of launching the biggest Olympics since 1896 with a blast at the stadium in Homebush Bay.

Billed proudly to be the biggest and best opening ceremony, the inaugural function was attended by 11,000 athletes, including 71 Indians, from 199 countries who got a chance to ease their tensions before getting down to the serious business of competing for the 300 gold medals at stake in 28 sports.

Fire-eaters, tap dancers and acrobats and a 2,000-member band livened up the giant stadium, the world’s largest Olympic arena, and spectators were taken on a journey of history which began 40,000 years ago when the Aborigines ruled the land.

The razzmatazz apart, several historic sights were witnessed at the ceremony before Australia’s Governor-General Sir William Deane opened the Games. North and South Koreas marched under one flag and four athletes from East Timor, which has separated from Indonesia, marched behind the Olympic flag.

The ceremony, watched all around the world on television by a record over 3 billion people, began at 7 p.m. and was preceded by one hour of pre show entertainment. Several thousand people flew into Sydney, among them US President Bill Clinton’s daughter Chelsea, boxing legend Mohammad Ali and Microsoft chief Bill Gates, to watch the show at the stadium, whose arches are a copy of the majestic span of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

At 8 p.m. an hour after the arrival of the head of state Sir William, the athletes parade led by Greece, who traditionally head the march of nations. It is another thing that Athens, will be the host of the next Olympics in 2004. The rest of the countries came in alphabetical order.

The Indian contingent, the saffron turbans of the men in blue coats and grey trousers standing out and women in dark blue sarees, was led into the arena by tennis ace Leander Paes, the bronze winner in singles at the previous Games in Atlanta, holding aloft the national Tricolour. The biggest cheer of course went up for the hosts who were the last to come in as is the practice.

“I declare open the Games of Sydney celebrating the 27th Olympiad of the modern era”, Sir William said after International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch had wished all athletes of the world good luck.

After declaring open the Games, the Olympic flag was brought in by eight legendary Australian athletes and the Olympic oath was read out by Rechelle Hawkes, the captain of the Australian women’s hockey team.

The Olympic torch which completed its 100-day odyssey to Sydney yesterday was brought into the stadium in a relay by eight of greatest women athletes, including swimming sensation Shane Gold, Dawn Fraser, Shirley Strickland and Debbie Flintoff-King.

Australian Aboriginal athlete Cathy Freeman had the privilege of lighting the cauldron in a most spectacular manner. She walked through water and ignited the cauldron which then rose majestically above her.

For the next 17 days the Olympic flame will burn till the Games end on October 1.

Before the contestants of the Games arrived, a lone horse rider shot into the centre of the arena, followed by crocodile Dundee Hero Paul Hogan and 120 stockmen who let out the roar of ‘G-Day’ with the theme music from the film ‘The Man from Snowy River’ playing in the background. The horsemen and women carrying Olympic flags and wearing traditional Australian outback coats and hide hats traced out the five rings of the Olympic movement.

Australian Soprano Julie Anthony, wearing a shimmering blue dress, sang the Australian national anthem.

Later, to show the effect that oceans have on coastal Australia, the stadium was turned into a sea of blue where a little girl drifted in a deep sea dream among brightly coloured giant fish, sea horses and other aquatic life.

The mystic journey, highlighting the life and customs of the fifth continent and the colourful traditional dances and rituals of the native Aborgines gave domestic colour to the opening ceremony as also the life of the pioneers who battled many obstacles to adopt Australia as their home.

Several stars graced the show among them singer Olivia Newton John who gave an inspired performance.

As in all such shows, music predominated. But there was music for everyone here from classical to rock and techno. The highlight was the live performance by the Sydney 2000 band. A massive 12,500 performers, including the 2000 member Sydney band, took part in the opening ceremony that included 100 fire eaters who lit up the spring night with awesome performances. 

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
120 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |