The city of Sydney was the second Australian city to host the Olympic Games after Melbourne 1956.
Beds are Burning is a classic by the Australian band Midnight Oil. His lyrics, with unmistakable social content, were the ideal seasoning for one of the most powerful ideological expressions that, much to his regret, witnessed the Olympic movement of the 21st century. The performance of the boys led by the imposing Peter Garrett at the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 games added a unique reference to their clothing to the message of the song (“How can we dance while our beds are burning?”). What did that “sorry” message on the chest of the black divers worn by each of its members refer to?
It clearly referred to an apology to members of the Australian indigenous peoples, including the inhabitants of the Torres Islands, an archipelago of more than 270 islands that was at that time one of the main references to historical conflicts between the governments of that country and the aboriginals. It was not exactly the closing of the party dreamed of by lovers of the aseptic protocols so frequent in these celebrations. What’s more, there was even the paradox that those who carried out this alleged mistake were members of a band that joined the celebration as a second option for The Seekers, a local band whose leader suffered an accident weeks before the games.
However, this was not the only high-impact reference in that impressive Australian celebration because, it must be said and beyond any ideological discussion, those games were the best in history in all aspects and starting with the parties. opening and closing.
For much of September 16, the first day of competitions, local television could not help but reiterate the magical images of the lighting of the Olympic cauldron. Impossible to discover how the enormous local athlete Cathy Freeman had been able to carry the lit torch to the foot of the long final route of the sacred fire without that fire going out and without herself getting wet under a kind of artificial waterfall whose visual effect was innovative and fascinating. .
Cathy Freeman was in charge of lighting the Olympic cauldron at the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Games.
Not even at the end of the first day, with the enormous impact of the two gold medals with two world records achieved by the host country (double by Ian Thorpe, 17 years old, in the 400 freestyle and 4×100 relay), we managed to archive the images of the opening in the folder of immediate memories.
A week later, other images of Freeman became an incessant loop for the Australian celebration.
Olympic runner-up in Atlanta and two-time world champion in the 400 meters in 1997 and 1999, Freeman faced the games under enormous pressure to get even with Frenchwoman Marie-Josee Perec, champion four years earlier on North American soil. Shortly after the games began, a crowd of journalists rushed to Sydney airport: surprisingly, Perec decided to leave the country and withdraw from the event. She vaguely claimed to have been threatened by a fan at the door of the hotel where she stayed. The main suspicion was, simply, a poor athletic state to face the commitment.
Beyond this unexpected news, the test itself generated an unprecedented impact since no North American athlete reached the semifinals, a situation so strange and unusual for the distance that those same athletes, days later, won the title in the relay. long.
Freeman won one of the most popular titles of the contest, not without mystery since, even having entered the final stretch, it took him a while to displace his rivals from Jamaica and Great Britain, who completed the podium.
Two clips from local TV remained indelible in my memory. One, the race and the subsequent celebrations with her people – including her mother – and in the background the song Coz I’m Free, by Cristine Anu (“I’m faster than a shadow”). The other, the development of the test with the epic story of Bruce McAvaney that ends with an unforgettable “What a legend…what a champion”.
Beyond some controversies with representatives of the indigenous peoples of which Cathy is also a part, the athlete took advantage of that victory to, even with Olympic prudence, make the claims of legitimacy visible.
His triumphant walk along the track of the Olympic Stadium carrying on his neck the flags of both Australia and the land of his ancestors was a preview of a commitment of solidarity that still endures.