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Tuesday, 3 October, 2000, 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK
Australia honours Olympic heroes
Sydney parade
Swimmer Ian Thorpe is cheered by the crowds
By Phil Mercer in Sydney

Australia's Olympic athletes have been honoured by a giant tickertape parade through the centre of Sydney.

This was Australia's best ever Olympics. The country was placed fourth on the medals board with 58 medals, including 16 golds.

For a nation of just 18 million people this is an extraordinary achievement.

The police estimate as many as one million people turned out to greet their sporting heroes, including triple gold medal-winning swimmer Ian Thorpe and champion sprinter Cathy Freeman.

Nearly 1,000 members of the Australian Olympic team, almost 600 athletes and 400 officials, took part in the parade.

The celebrations were the first of eight nation-wide parades by Australia's athletes.

Cathy Freeman
Cathy Freeman: The first Aborigine to win an individual gold

Thousands of people lined the streets of the Olympic city, as tickertape streamed from office windows high above.

Gold medallist Cathy Freeman said it was a great way for the athletes to say thank-you for the support they'd received.

Record

The parade started on the steps of the Opera House, led by a navy band playing Waltzing Matilda.

It made its way through the central business district, reaching the town hall an hour later.

Olympic torch
The torch has been put out, but celebrations continue

Many athletes left their official cars during the parade to greet the crowd, sign autographs and pose for photographs.

The Lord Mayor of Sydney, Frank Sartor, presented the captain of the Australian team, the basketball player Andrew Gaze, with the keys to the city.

Mr Sartor paid tribute to the outstanding success of the home nation. It won 16 gold medals in what was its best ever performance at the Olympics.

Depression

The Queen has praised Sydney's staging of the games, saying they were a tribute to all good things about Australia.

The Governor-General, Sir William Dean, received a message from Buckingham Palace congratulating everyone involved.

The success of the last two weeks could have a downside too: the people of Australia are being warned to be ready for an Olympic-size national depression following the euphoria of the games.

Olyumpic fireworks - closing ceremony
The end of the Olympics may leave many depressed

The director of the Centre for Olympic Studies, Richard Cashman, says some will take the end of the games like a death in the family.

Another Olympic parade is scheduled to take place in Sydney later this week when the city honours the 50,000 unpaid volunteers who helped out during the Olympic fortnight.

Then the city looks ahead to its next sporting challenge - the Paralympic Games which start in mid-October.

See also:

01 Oct 00 | Olympics2000
01 Oct 00 | Olympics2000
01 Oct 00 | Fans Guide
01 Oct 00 | Photo Gallery
02 Oct 00 | UK
30 Sep 00 | Business
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