Fifteen years since the Sydney Olympics

I can’t credit that. Seems like yesterday. And I was blogging then!

Diary for September 2000

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Sunday, September 3 2000: 12 days to the Olympics

They say Moore Park will be finished before the Olympics, but they are finding it difficult as there are not enough graders available to do the job. Meantime Belmore Park, near Central Station, is now carpeted–not with bright flowers, or fresh green grass, but with daggy green carpet! Very tasteful. There was a bomb scare at Kirrawee Railway Station south of the city last week; apparently emergency personnel were misdirected to Canterbury Station (some distance away and on quite another line) due to a “pronunciation problem”! However, Central Station refurbishment has been completed–well almost.

Extra police on the streets and quite a few foreign visitors are already apparent in the city. The athletes, of course, have started moving into the Olympic Village.

Today was Yum Cha again–for the uninitiated this is Cantonese for “drink tea” and is essentially an endless supply of delicacies (steamed buns, dumplings, chicken feet, etc) washed down by tea. One can if one chooses have a 24 course breakfast–or more. There were ten people today–PK, Ian Smith, J***s, Sirdan, ABC Andrew, Clive, a guy from Houston Texas, a lesbian Olympic volunteer official from NZ (a friend of Sirdan), Bruce from the Albury, and me. Rabbit sent his hugs to all but was otherwise engaged today. Sad news is that John Wilkinson, who was there last time, an old friend of M, is critically ill in hospital: M has just gone to visit him.

Good news (9.30 pm): John Wilkinson is much better than he was yesterday…

Thursday September 14: the Torch goes through my neighbourhood.

8 am: Yes, in one and a half hours the Torch goes by! Meantime I’ll leave you with an irrelevant quote–encouragement to The Rabbit, myself and all other online diarists 😉 ; Looking back, I imagine I was always writing. Twaddle it was too. But better to write twaddle, or anything, anything, than nothing at all. –Katherine Mansfield

9.50 am: Well, I saw it at last! The torchbearer had very nice legs. 😉

It was amazing how a crowd materialised so quickly. Half an hour back hardly any unusual activity could be seen, but then suddenly people appeared everywhere. On the balcony of the Surry Club Hotel there was a champagne breakfast. And yes, the torch was accompanied by lots of fine specimens of manhood on Harleys! Not sure I saw the one The Rabbit’s page mentions though. 😉

A nice sight was the Mother Theresa nuns (various nationalities, but mostly Indian–there is a convent of them near here) all waving their Australian flags.

4.00 pm: The weather has been so glorious I have neglected my reading, but I am enjoying The Romantics by Pankaj Mishra, which The Rabbit lent me. It began slowly but becomes quite absorbing; the characterisation is subtle, the writing good, and the politics and cultural background fascinating. (Follow that link above for more about him and his work, and a rather scathing review: a bit too scathing I suspect at the moment.)

I went down to sit on the green carpet (yechhh!) in Belmore Park near Central Railway, hoping to imbibe the Olympic spirit. And did 🙂 As I said, it has been as good as Sydney gets–good enough for some wonderful shirtless sights for a poor old codger like me to (dare I say) perve on–in the nicest possible way of course–a pure aesthetic experience.

10.00 pm: Laser lights, fireworks, and the news here absolutely dominated by the upcoming Olympics and today’s events. In passing, the Australian dollar sliding below 55 US cents for the first time ever! Good for all those Olympic visitors of course. On PBS (USA) news on the other hand the only mention of the Olympics tonight was the arrest of an official from Uzbekistan for importation of human growth hormone, and that story was quite sympathetic to the official who, it is claimed, needed the drug for a medical condition and had in fact been hospitalised when his drug was seized last week!

Halfway through The Romantics which is triggering some odd associations. I certainly see something of myself when young in the narrator’s (Samar’s) combination of awkwardness and (alleged?) intellect. Second, reflecting on the novel’s presentation of many Indias, or visions of India, I think of how profoundly MP has been affected by the place; I also think of myself studying Indian History at University and how such arcane knowledge attracted me. Also, what India did we learn about? Part of my obscure motivation for studying this subject was a friendship that ran from age 13 to 15, then by correspondence for a few more years as the Indian friend went to St Paul’s School in London. Ashok was one of my closest friends, and though I could not and did not articulate it at the time, there was a very real erotic feel to that friendship on my side at least. I recognise that now, felt it then…

Saturday. September 23.

Again as usual I was tutoring in Chinatown today. On the way back at 4.30 pm I never saw such crowds in that part of Sydney: the whole precint from Darling Harbour, through Paddy’s Market, Chinatown, Belmore Park and Central Station was packed. I saw members of the Japanese track and field team, the Radio Beijing Cheering Squad (!), and people, people, people. The carpet in Belmore Park was virtually invisible, as a capacity crowd (some shirtless ;-P) cheered on the Australian Men’s Medley Relay Team to Silver (USA gold, Germany bronze) on the big screen set up in the park. Swimmers look good on a giant screen. I shouldn’t be surprised if the crowds passing through Central were record-setting themselves today…

What a month that was! See also the month before at August retro–4–even further back.

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