Why Sydney's 2000 Olympics were the greatest

It was the best of times, it was … well, the best of times.

Were the Sydney Olympics really 20 years ago? In some ways they seem like yesterday and in others, another age, another universe.

In September 2000, Sydney – the whole of Australia in fact – was in party mode. Day after day something more incredible was rolled out for the country to savour. Whether glued to TV sets, sitting in jammed-packed stadiums or just walking around, we were immersed in our own version of Disney's Fantasyland.

Australia's Cathy Freeman 9pictured) carries both the Aboriginal and the Australian flags during a victory lap after winning the women's 400m final at the Sydney Olympic Games September 25, 2000. Freeman won the race with a time in 49.11 seconds

Australia's Cathy Freeman (pictured) carries both the Aboriginal and the Australian flags during a victory lap after winning the women's 400m final at the Sydney Olympic Games September 25, 2000. Freeman won the race with a time in 49.11 seconds 

Beach volley fans (pictured) watch the final between Brazilians Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede, and Australians Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst. The Australians won the match 2-0

Beach volley fans (pictured) watch the final between Brazilians Adriana Behar and Shelda Bede, and Australians Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst. The Australians won the match 2-0 

Stockmen on horseback form the Olympic rings in the 110,000-seat Olympic Stadium (pictured) during the opening ceremony

Stockmen on horseback form the Olympic rings in the 110,000-seat Olympic Stadium (pictured) during the opening ceremony 

Australians Kerri Pottharst (pictured right)) and Natalie Cook (pictured left) hold their gold medals after winning the final of the beach volley competition at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, September 25, 2000

Australians Kerri Pottharst (pictured right)) and Natalie Cook (pictured left) hold their gold medals after winning the final of the beach volley competition at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, September 25, 2000 

Nothing was impossible, dreams came true, promises were fulfilled and just when you thought you had witnessed the best sporting moment of your life, something else would come along and top it.

Try to measure the feeling in our capital cities over those magical few weeks with what is happening right now and there is simply no comparison. Hope, national pride and the dawning of a new century back then - against lockdowns, facemasks, heavy-handed police powers and the greatest economic uncertainty in the country's history just 20 years later.

When veteran journalist, author and Olympic historian Harry Gordon wrote a book about the Sydney Olympics he titled it, 'The Time of Our Lives' and he was spot-on.

For those of us lucky enough to be at its epicentre there will never be anything like it again.

It wasn't just what we saw on the track or in the pool and at every other venue around the city, it was in the cafes, on trains and buses: people smiling and happy, offering their seats to strangers.

I saw two Americans with a map trying to find their way to Circular Quay. They were almost knocked over in the rush of Sydneysiders offering to help.

I remember writing in a column at the time that Sydney 2000 had shown us the path to world peace – simply hold the Olympics in international trouble spots, 365 days a year.

Sydney was the third Olympic Games I covered in my career, and there would be four more before I hung up the laptop after Rio in 2016, but none of the others would come close.

Athletes say there is something special about a 'home' Olympics. The same goes for journalists and spectators.

There was one thing that Sydney had in common with all the other Games I covered though – the daily stories of doom, gloom and planning failures that filled newspapers and TV bulletins in the months leading up to the first day of competition.

Ian Thorpe (pictured) holds aloft the Australian flag after winning the men's 400 metre relay event at the Sydney Olympics

Ian Thorpe (pictured) holds aloft the Australian flag after winning the men's 400 metre relay event at the Sydney Olympics 

The Cauldron containing the Olympic Flame rises above Torch Bearer Cathy Freeman (pictured) of Australia during the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Homebush Bay

The Cauldron containing the Olympic Flame rises above Torch Bearer Cathy Freeman (pictured) of Australia during the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Homebush Bay 

Australian fans (pictured) during the Mens Cross Country Mountain Biking at Fairfield City Farm on Day Nine of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games

Australian fans (pictured) during the Mens Cross Country Mountain Biking at Fairfield City Farm on Day Nine of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games 

It's not surprising. Until that first starting gun goes off, journalists have nothing else to write about. Before Sydney 2000 burst into life we had controversy about US marching bands being imported for the Opening Ceremony and allegations of local officials accepting lavish gifts from the bid committees of future Games. We were told that oars would be entangled in a mass of reeds on the rowing course at Penrith, and construction of the main stadium at Homebush was put on hold as alternative accommodation was found for a colony of reportedly endangered green frogs.

It was all going to be a fiasco, a waste of money, we were led to believe. And then Cathy Freeman appeared out of nowhere in her other-worldly outfit and lit the malfunctioning cauldron and everything was suddenly perfect for the next 14 days.

Actually, I reckon it all started to come together 24 hours before that. The moment Australians – and the world for that matter – became true believers was when Greg Norman carried the Olympic torch across the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

It doesn't get more fair dinkum than that.

A stockman on horseback rides into Olympic Stadium (pictured) during the opening ceremony of the 2000 Olympics

A stockman on horseback rides into Olympic Stadium (pictured) during the opening ceremony of the 2000 Olympics 

Australian fans joined international guests in the stadium (pictured) before the opening ceremony of the games

Australian fans joined international guests in the stadium (pictured) before the opening ceremony of the games 

I was beyond fortunate to be a sports columnist covering that event in the city where I had grown up. I was blessed. My brief was simple: just go wherever you want, whenever you want, and write what you see and feel.

In sports-writing terms that's like winning the lottery, only without the money.

Not that money could buy that experience. I saw just about everything there was to see – and not just the biggest events. I went out to the table tennis because I heard that Bill Gates had flown all the way from the US to watch that one event. I didn't see Bill, but I got a good story. I went to the synchronised swimming to see the wonderful Aussie girls – our version of the Jamaican bobsled team I called them – finish last and celebrate with their families and friends as if they'd won gold.

I was there on the harbour when the Manly ferry pulled up alongside the skiff of two Aussie sailors who had just won gold and the passengers broke into a chorus of 'Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi …'

I saw Kerrie Pottharst and Natalie Cook win the beach volleyball on the

read more from dailymail.....

PREV More than 100 BLM protesters shut down George Washington Bridge in Manhattan
NEXT Four Navy aircrew parachute to safety moments before E-2C Hawkeye plane crashes ...