Sydney Olympics

Sydney Olympics: "Spectacular"

"The Greatest Olympic Games ever" - Juan Antonio Samaranch, President I.O.C., on September 30, 2000 at the Olympic Games Closing Ceremony, Sydney, Australia.

Those were the words that all Australians had been waiting to hear since the 2000 Olympic Games commenced with a spectacular Opening Ceremony in Sydney on Friday, September 1st.

For two weeks the eyes of the world were on the "Land Down Under", and, like the rest of the world, all Australians were wondering if the whole 'spectacle' would be everything we hoped it would be.

Without a doubt, the Games were an undeniable success in all aspects, from the weather, to the people, the volunteers, the organisers, the supporters and, happily, the sport of hockey.

The success of our game at the Sydney 2000 Games cannot and should not be underestimated by the international hockey fraternity. With the 15,000 strong capacity Hockey Stadium packed each day, not to mention the 170plus media throng, the profile of hockey escalated dramatically over the two weeks.

Rechelle's honour

Maybe the Opening Ceremony of September 1 was just the start of what was to prove to be a highlight in the history of the game. Was it an omen when, of all the athletes attending the Games, it was Hockeyroo Rechelle Hawkes who was chosen to read the Athletes Oath. Hawkes, the world's most 'successful' woman hockey player ever and one of the greats of the game, stood before a world audience of 4.5 billion as the face not only of the athletes but as a great ambassador for hockey. How fitting that Rechelle should be recognized for the wonderful service she has given to our great game, not just for Australia, but for all countries competing.

Rechelle Hawkes
". . . a great ambassador for hockey . . .

From an Australian perspective, the Sydney 2000 Games was possibly the greatest compliment for hockey as a sport. It is a well known fact that Australians are passionate about their sport, but not to the degree of donning face paint and singing from the rafters. This is more likely a regular occurrence in Europe. Australians have traditionally been a little more laid back.

The Olympic Games brought with it a patriotism in supporters, the likes of which are usually reserved for cricket and tennis. Face painting and singing became national pastimes!

This was never more evident than at the Olympic Hockey Stadium. The crowds loved the entire spectacle. The hockey was a breath of fresh air as much for the supporters who are generally starved of much international competition in Oz, as it was to those who had bought tickets just to see an Olympic event.

The crowd's role
The overall support (and I'm sure all players would agree) was like nothing we had ever witnessed in one place. Of course the Australians were crowd favourites, but the appreciation of the spectators for the opposition created such a great feel to the tournament.

Crowd at the 2000 olympics
". . .the wonderful spirit enjoyed throughout the fortnight. . . ....

And don't get me wrong. The supporters were from all denominations. The unmistakable sea of Orange accompanied by the chant of "Ho - lland" was evident to all. The Kiwi supporters, decked out in war paint and snarling the menacing 'Haka" before each game, added to the event.

The music played between matches and at half time was upbeat and festive - great entertainment value. The crowds cheered on all the characters, the great play and players, and generally developed a much greater appreciation for the game. It was a truly international spectacle!

Big screen success

New and old hockey fans were all of the same opinion. The hockey venue was one of the best value for money at the Games. The giant screen provided instant replays, which was a major bonus for spectators. The genuine hockey follower can often pre-empt the flow of play and therefore follow the game easily, but newcomers to our sport don't fare so well. The fact that this wasn't taken for granted and a screen was supplied, had people searching for tickets to games later in the tournament. By all accounts the big screen didn't affect the umpires and it made the game a lot more spectator friendly. It also provided a great vehicle for showing hockey footage from past to present Olympics, educating and entertaining the crowds during the breaks in play.

Value for money was another bonus. The modern stadiums and even the temporary stands had unobstructed views. The crowds were ushered in and out of the event in one hour windows between sessions and were easily and patiently controlled by the many volunteers who somehow kept the smiles on their faces while solving problems and assisting people despite long exhausting days in the sunshine.

Spectators were able to watch two or three Olympic matches for between $35-$65. Athletic tickets were double that for seats in the 'nose-bleed section'.

The entire hockey competition was a credit to the organisers of the Games and no doubt the volunteers were a wonderful asset for the self-effacing Competitions Manager Ron Riley and his staff.

Ideal location

The location of the stadium was a major coup. Unlike at previous Olympic Games where travel to the venue was often an hour away from the main Olympic venues, the state of the art Olympic Hockey Stadium stood proudly amongst all the other venues in Olympic Park, no more than a stone's throw from the Aquatic Centre and only a five-ten minute walk from the main Athletic Stadium. This made attending hockey a lot more attractive to those seeking to find a sport with the convenience of location and accessibility by transport.

The media could have no complaints either. The Media Centre and Press Conference facilities for hockey were just behind the main grandstand. The media enclosure, in the main stand, provided some of the best seats in the house. Television monitors on every table allowed journalists a second look at important moments thus ensuring that errors in reporting were kept to a minimum. They also allowed hockey reporters to stay at the hockey and still keep up with other events.

The Hockey Media Centre was once again run in a competent and friendly manner by the very capable Kim Douglas and her staff of volunteers. Those who had seen Kim in action as Media Chief at the 1999 Champions Trophy in Brisbane, were not surprised. As for television coverage, the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games was broadcast in more countries and territories than any other Games in history. Two hundred and twenty countries were treated to the sporting spectacular, with numerous hours of hockey shown over the two weeks.

Even the Sydney 2000 website received over 9 billion hits over the Games with the www.gamesinfo site averaging one billion hits a day.

So much joy

It is hard to find fault with the Sydney hockey tournament. Even the weather played its part with brilliant sunshine virtually every day. The athletes were gracious in acknowledging their supporters, invariably completing a lap of honour at the end of each game. That just added to the wonderful spirit enjoyed through-out the fortnight.

On the field one shared the joy of the top scorers, Australia's Nikki Hudson with her six goals, and George Lombi of Argentina with 13; the spectacular youthful outfit of the silver medal winning Argentinian women; their exuberance; the cut throat men's competition which saw eight teams still in contention for the semi finals on the last day of the pool matches; the deafening roar of a 15,000 capacity crowd executing the Mexican wave; and the stunned silence of the crowd at the penalty shoot out's to decide the crucial men's matches. Hockey at the Sydney 2000 Games had it all.

It may be of some surprise to the rest of the world that, despite the successes of the Australians on the international hockey scene, it would have been difficult to find anyone outside the hockey fraternity who could have named three or more Australian players, let alone any world hockey figures.

The Sydney 2000 Games has changed all that. Hockey sailed on a sea of success at the Games with innovation and enthusiasm from the administration, the staff, the players and the fans. One may say that everyone was caught up in the Olympic spirit. The image of hockey can only have benefited. It is up to all of us to ride this wave into 2001.

Athletes participating: 352, 160 women, 192 men.
Matches: 77.
Goals scored: 276 (Women 112, men164).
Most goals for: Women: Australia 25, Men: Pakistan and Australia 18.
Top scorers: Women: Nikki Hudson (Australia) 6 goals. Men: George Lombi (Argentina) 13.
Penalty strokes: 36 (30 converted).
Highest converter of chances: Poland men (25%).