READERS REMEMBER

READERS REMEMBER
Allan Gibson Sydney 2000 Olympic Games

It’s hard to believe it is 20 years since the Sydney Olympic Games and the Sydney Paralympics. The stats and facts are quite staggering and will jog a memories for many of our readers. A total of 74,000 volunteers were involved in both Games during September and October 2000. The Olympic Games attracted nearly 11,000 athletes from 200 countries while the Sydney Paralympics had 3,800 athletes representing 123 countries.

Two Hills to Hawkesbury Community News readers sent us their stories, Allan Gibson from Cherrybrook who volunteered at the 2000 Olympics and Sandra Grierson from Glenhaven who volunteered at both.

Allan Gibson was a transport volunteer and Olympic Family host.

I recall that early morning in September 1993 when I set the alarm to watch the announcement that Sydney was the winner. In the lead up to the Games I had only a casual interest in the event. That, however, changed in the early part of 2000 when my daughter, Keryl, said “If I volunteer, would you do so”?

Subsequently we registered to be volunteers for the Olympic Roads and Transport Authority (ORTA). We undertook accreditation and training and were both assigned to “Back of House” roles. The term did not do justice to the role and tasks we were to perform.

As a Load Zone Officer, I was assigned to the kerb where a double driveway enabled entry and exit of designated VIP cars. These were numbered based on the degree of importance of the Olympic Family and other VIP guests.

Keryl as a Customer Service Officer was stationed at the stadium entrance at the top of the keyhole driveway, greeting the VIPs on arrival. On the final night of the Games, the main race of interest was the Women’s 400 metres in which Australia’s Cathy Freeman was a finalist.

As the time for the race approached, I observed that almost all the VIPs had arrived. The IOC President, international dignitaries, the Governor-General, State Governor, Premier et al. Still there was no sign of the familiar white Holden Statesman, Australian Flag on the bonnet and the distinctive number plate, “C1”.

A bus approached the kerb and pulled across the driveway. The drivers knew they had to go beyond the driveway and use the Bus Zone. Then I looked behind the bus and there were two cars, one was “C1”. The bus door opened, and a blue jacketed male started to alight. With an air of authority, I urged the man “can you tell the driver to move the bus along, the Prime Minster is following the bus”!

The “man” calmly replied “it’s ok, the Prime Minister is on the bus”! Not just any “man” but a member of the PM’s protection detail. Then followed Laurie Lawrence and the PM. A brief conversation ensued, and I apologised to Mr Howard.

It transpired the Howards had decided to go to the stadium via the Olympic Village to visit the Australian Team who had been invited to be in the VIP area for the race. Instead of continuing by car, the Howards joined the team members on the bus.

The weeks leading up to and during the Olympics were busy, to say the least. That busyness was heightened by us hosting the parents of a Canadian Womens’ Basketball Team member, Joy McNichol, as part of the Samsung Athletes Family Host program. The McNichols were from Waterloo, south of Toronto, Ontario. It was a fantastic experience hosting Jan an d Don.

Volunteering at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games was a once in a lifetime Experience.

Sandra Grierson worked in the Information Centre inside the Athlete’s Village for both the Olympics and Paralympics. She has many stories of the Paralympics these are a few of her favourites.

A young Irish Paralympian came into the Village Information Centre asking for suggestions how he could get both himself (in a wheelchair) and his racing wheelchair onboard the bus to the training arena. The bus stop was outside the village confines and down a significant slope.

I volunteered to wheel the racing chair onto the bus for him. Along the road, through security and onto the bus we went, having a lovely chat on the way.

Sandra Grierson at the closing ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games

After depositing the racing chair in the bus other athletes also wanted to chat, they wanted me to come with them but unfortunately my accreditation wasn’t valid for that. They yelled at the bus driver to shut the doors so I was trapped, after some light hearted negotiations and plenty of laughter they finally agreed to let me go free.

Such a fun experience.

Towards the end of the Paralympics many of the athletes had free time and would drop in for a chat, to show their medals or just pass time. They mentioned it was difficult to leave the village to go shopping for souvenirs and trinkets etc.

We often wore clip on koalas or extra pins so we could give them away. Someone came up with the idea of a swap meet. We put tables outside information and laid out some bits and pieces, the only rule was no cash was to be exchanged.

It was done with great spirit.

A Japanese cyclist traded his uniform racing top, another athlete was thrilled to swap for it and so the swapping continued. Some items were swapped 3 or 4 times, back and forwards. A Russian athlete swapped his bottle of Vodka, I can’t remember what for but he was extremely happy!

A young Paralympian, using a wheelchair and with other disabilities came into village information centre and indicated she didn’t know how and couldn’t use use the pay phone, she had been trying for a while and was a bit distraught. After a few attempts I finally understood the country code and number she was patiently showing me and eventually the number connected. After a few rings a familiar voice answered and she burst into tears, her first call home and she was so excited. The pure joy on her face is a cherished memory.

I was lucky enough to be asked to assist at the Paralympic Opening and Closing ceremonies, as I spoke some Japanese I was allocated to help the Japanese team. They were such a jolly bunch! The sailing team was near the front where I was positioned so we had some lovely chats. For the rehearsal I was asked to carry the Japanese flag for the lap around the stadium, what an honour! During the actual ceremony, I walked just behind the flag bearer, entering the stadium we heard an enormous roar, the stands were packed, the atmosphere was amazing and smiling excited faces filled all the seats, audience and athletes alike. What an experience!

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