'Great to know it still works': Olympic cauldron lit again after 20 years
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'Great to know it still works': Olympic cauldron lit again after 20 years

Twenty years to the day after the cauldron was lit to open the Sydney Olympics it has been set alight again, without the drama of that unforgettable night.

The infamous malfunction with the cauldron making its way up to the top of Stadium Australia in 2000 had Olympic officials holding their breath and left the final torch bearer, Cathy Freeman, standing around drenched until it finally set off and completed its journey several minutes later.

The Olympic cauldron is lit on Tuesday.

The Olympic cauldron is lit on Tuesday.Credit:Louise Kennerley

There was no such problem on Tuesday as the cauldron, which now resides in the park named after Freeman next to the stadium, was symbolically switched on for the day.

Freeman, who lives in Melbourne, was not in Sydney for the anniversary due to COVID-19 restrictions, but delivered a video message and helped select the two young athletes, Indigenous basketballer Tenayah Logan and teenage Paralympian Tamsin Colley, who raised Sydney 2000 torches as the flame was re-lit.

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“Lighting the cauldron 20 years ago, the words that come to my mind are ‘surreal’ and ‘simply magnificent,” Freeman said.

“I am very proud of the fact that when I lit the cauldron all those years ago it was a symbol of hope for all young Australians. It is at times like this that I simply reflect and I wonder at the power of sport and the difference that sport can make in our lives.”

Ian Thorpe reminisces with Sydney 2000 volunteers.

Ian Thorpe reminisces with Sydney 2000 volunteers.Credit:Louise Kennerley

The iconic moment at the Sydney Games opening ceremony is also remembered for the glitch that followed Freeman’s dash up the steps and into a pool of water to light the Olympic flame.

“I’d marched in with the team and was standing down there with members of our women’s rowing eight,” recalled Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates, the Australian team chef de mission in Sydney.

“They were going, ‘John, is this meant to be happening?’. I knew very well that we’d had a lot of trouble with the engineering to get [the cauldron] up there. We’d thrown a lot of extra money at it in the last six months. I didn’t know what had gone wrong and in my own mind I was going ‘Let’s leave the thing there, we’ll pretend that’s what was meant to happen, we’ll get it up the next day’.

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“But suddenly it stuttered its way up there and when it took off of course I didn’t realise until later, it was reliant on a gas bottle to get to the top. It just got there.”

Ian Thorpe, who won three gold medals in Sydney but watched the opening ceremony on television as he prepared for his swimming events, was also at the Olympic Park to mark the occasion, as was Paralympics great Louise Sauvage.

“When the cauldron was stuck, I thought ‘Maybe it’s supposed to be there’ ," Thorpe said. "Then I realised that Cathy was standing out there for a long time and there has got to be something more to it."

Sauvage said Tuesday: “It’s great to be here and know that it still works."

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