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  Wednesday, 4 July, 2001, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Sydney's golden Games
Sydney provided a superb Olympic location
Sydney provided a superb Olympic location
Having reported on the 2000 Olympics first-hand from Sydney, BBC Sport Online's Jonathon Moore reflects on the most successful Games in Olympic history.

"The Australians would rather win a gold medal than a Nobel prize."

That was how legendary travel writer Bill Bryson described the success of the Sydney Olympics.

His statement could be viewed as downright derogatory, unless you were one of the lucky few to experience Sydney during September 2000.

What Bryson, a well-travelled man if ever there was one, understood was the importance placed on sport in the Australian psyche.

Forget politics or business - what Australians want to do is win and as it happens, they do it rather well.

The Sydney Olympic village
The Olympic village: a solar-powered suburb

Sydney 2000 was nothing less than a remarkable success. So much so in fact that it left the country with something of a hangover when the party finally ended.

It also created an almost unachievable burden of expectation for the organisers of Athens 2004.

Sydney established records in ticket sales, audience figures and Internet traffic.

Billed as the 'green Games', the Olympic village was built on reclaimed land and became the world's largest solar-powered suburb.

Huge boost for Australia

The media loved it and the reports emanating from the Games were not shy in contrasting the success of Sydney with the disaster of 1996.

In terms of organisation, Sydney learnt well from the chaos that was Atlanta.

"The most wonderful tale to come out of Atlanta," Bryson told me with a wry smile, "was the security guard who by chance walked past a man with a loaded gun on his lap.

Sydney volunteers
40,000 volunteers played their part for Sydney

"This guy had walked through two or three metal detectors and was waiting patiently for President Clinton and other dignitaries to arrive. Unbelievable, but it summed up Atlanta."

As for Sydney, never before has a city embraced the hosting of the Olympic Games so fully, nor an entire nation taken the Olympic cause to the heart so dearly.

As one commentator noted after the closing ceremony: "I invite you to suggest a more successful event anywhere in the peacetime history of mankind."

Winning the bid was also huge boost for Australia. The Games contributed around 2.3bn to the country's GDP in 2000.


For a British journalist, Sydney's two weeks in the sun were an eye-opening experience

But equally importantly it raised the profile of the country, the effects of which will be evident for many years to come.

For a British journalist, Sydney's two weeks in the sun were an eye-opening experience.

If there is one thing Sydney has, apart from blue skies and thousands of miles of sandy beaches, it is space, something sadly lacking in many European cities.

So despite an estimated extra 10m visitors to the city, the most taxing part of catching the Monday morning tube was deciding whether to sit upstairs or down.

Traffic jams on the city's roads were few and far between and travel to Sydney's Olympic Park required no more than a 45 minute journey on a half-empty train.

'The best ever'

There is little doubt that one of the other many reasons for Sydney's success is that is started from a very favourable position.

As a nation, the Australians are already successful. They churn out sportsmen and women in every direction and live in a climate that invites participation.

But they are also incredibly motivated.

A 70,000-strong 'army' of volunteers travelled to Sydney to work, without pay, in aid of the Olympic cause.

Doctors, bricklayers, accountants, gardeners all played their part, many of them using up their holiday entitlement to make the Games memorable for the country's visitors.

The President of the International Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch, declared the Sydney Games "the best Olympics ever".

Quite what his successor will make of Athens, and the city chosen for 2008, remains to be seen.

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See also:

04 Jul 01 | Olympic Votes
01 Oct 00 | Olympics2000
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