Background to the Games

On the 9th-13th September 1993 the 10th International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Executive Committee met and decided that four of the five hopefuls to host the 2000 Olympic Games would also be able to host the Paralympics. They decided to pass this information on to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) but without ranking the options so as to not put the IPC in an awkward position should their first choice not get chosen.  It was decided on the 23rd of September 1993, in Monte-Carlo, at the 101st IOC Session, that Sydney would be the host of the 2000 Olympic Games.

An Olympic Coordination Authority (OCA) was set up with responsibility for the construction of facilities that met international standards for the Games, ensuring they would be economically and environmentally sustainable in the long-term as community assets, and overseeing the operations of the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) and Sydney Paralympic Organising Committee (SPOC). Accessibility was a crucial part of the planning and OCA produced Access Guidelines and established the Olympic Access Advisory Committee, which was made up of representatives of Government agencies and non-profits with the expertise to advise on ways to ensure facilities were accessible to people with disabilities. 

When Sydney was awarded the Games less than 5% of railway stations and none of the public or private buses were considered accessible. The Olympic Roads and Transport Authority (ORTA), responsible for planning and coordinating transport services during the Games, did very little to improve access before three Disability Discrimination Act complaint cases forced the state government to purchase new, low floor, accessible buses that were used during the Games.

The 2000 Paralympic Summer Games was the 11th in history and the 1st ever held in the Southern Hemisphere.

The build-up to the Games

Logo

Logo for the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Summer Games

The logo contains three sails (representing the Sydney Opera House) leaping forward towards to the Games. Within the logo, one sale is blue to represent Sydney Harbour, one is red to represent the earth and one is green to represent the forest.

Changes to Events

The 2000 Paralympics were the first time ‘basketball ID’ (basketball for the intellectually disabled) was offered as an event. The game is very similar to the Olympic version apart from the fact it is played for a shorter time and is played on a smaller court. It was first demonstrated as a sport during the Atlanta 1996 Paralympics and was praised during the Games for its ‘fast and physical style’.

Venues

13 venues were used.

Sydney Olympic Park, Homebush

Built on the traditional land of the Wann clan, known as the Wann-gal, the Park stretches along the southern shore of the Parramatta River between Cockle Bay (Cadi-gal land) and Rose Hill (Burramatta-gal land). Although reports from the 18th century when the First Fleet (the first ships transporting convicts to the new British penal colony) mention the Aboriginal people there is little recorded about them.

The first land grant for Homebush Bay was issued 1797 and by 1811 most of the land in the area had been granted to two large estates. John Blaxland, one of the first free settlers, acquired 520 hectares in 1807, naming it the Newington Estate after his family estate in Kent. D’arcy Wentworth, who had been acquitted of highway robbery was transported to Botany Bay as an Assistant Surgeon, was granted 370 hectares of land, which he named Home Bush in 1810. D’arcy started Australia’s first horse stud and in 1840 his son, William Charles Wentworth, then President of the Sydney Turf Club, built a racecourse and extensive training facilities. The Games Tennis Centre, Sports Centre and Hockey Centre are built on the former racecourse site.

In 1882, land on the Newington Estate was used to build a powder magazine which started operating with NSW Military forces in 1897. In early 1997, the armament depot was consolidated in the north of the site, allowing the development of the Athletes Village.

  • Olympic Stadium
    The New South Wales Government created the State Abattoir on the Home Bush Estate in 1907, it closed in 1988 and the Olympic Stadium was built on the site of the sale yards.
    The roof was designed to provide maximum weather protection and an improved television picture, the white steel trusses supporting it are 295 metres long, half the span of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. At the time it was the largest stadium to have been used for the Games and was designed to be reconfigured after the Games to accommodate 83,500 spectators.
    Spectator capacity – 110,000.
    Used for opening and closing ceremonies, athletics.
  • Sydney International Aquatic Centre
    Completed 1994 at a cost of $65,000,000, the Aquatic Centre was designed by Coax Architects and PTW Architects.
    Spectator capacity – 17,000.
    Used for swimming.

Swimming pool at the Sydney Olympic Park

© Ian Brittain

  • Sydney Superdome
    The Superdome opened in September 1999, having cost $200 million.
    Spectator capacity - 18,000.
    Used for wheelchair basketball.
  • State Sports Centre
    The venue is now known as the Quay Centre.
    Spectator capacity – fixed seating capacity of 3854 and an additional 1152 retractable seats.
    Used for table tennis.
  • State Hockey Centre
    Part of the State Sports Centre, the Hockey Centre was completed in 1998.
    Spectator capacity – 8,000, temporary stands raised to 15,000.
    Used for football.
  • New South Wales Tennis Centre
    Spectator capacity - centre court 10,000, two show courts 4,000 & 2,000, seven match courts 200 and six practice courts.
    Used for wheelchair tennis.
  • Sydney International Archery Park
    Built for the Games it opened in 1998.
    Spectator capacity – 4,500 in a temporary stand.
    Used for archery.

 Outside the Olympic Park

  • Sydney Showground
    Used for wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, ID basketball, powerlifting, wheelchair fencing, goalball, sitting and standing volleyball.
  • Centennial Parklands
    Spectator capacity – the route provided unlimited space for spectators.
    Used for road cycling.
  • Dunc Gray Velodrome
    Named after Australian Dunc Gray, who won Australia’s first cycling gold medal at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games.
    Spectator capacity – 6,000.
    Used for track cycling.
  • Sydney International Equestrian Centre
    The purpose-built facility at Horsley Park was completed in 1997, with stabling for 340 horses.
    Spectator capacity – 20,000 in the main arena.
    Used for equestrian.
  • Olympic Sailing Shore Base
    Australian company, Scott Carver, renovated existing shore-based buildings and built a new 120 berth marina, work completed 1999.
    Used for sailing.
  • Sydney International Shooting Centre
    Spectator capacity – 7,000.
    Used for shooting.

Mascot

Mascot for the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games, Lizzie the Lizard

The mascot for the Sydney 2000 Paralympics was Lizzy the frill-necked Lizard. © IPC

The frill of the lizard is green and gold and in the shape of Australia and the ochre coloured body represents the land. Lizzy represented the strength, determination and attitude of the Paralympic athletes participating at the Games.

The Paralympic Flame

During the torch relay, a total of 920 torchbearers carried the flame for an average of 500 meters each. The relay visited each Australian capital city but focused mostly on Sydney and the surrounding area as a way to encourage ticket sales.

The opening ceremony

© Getty Images

The opening ceremony was held on Wednesday 18th October, starting at 8pm.

The event had a traditional Aboriginal feel to it and featured over 6000 performers with actor Bryan Brown acting as a narrator for the ceremony. The ceremony started with a national anthem of Australia before each competing nation paraded around the stadium.

Speeches were given by Dr John Grant, President of the Sydney Paralympic Organising Committee, and Dr Robert Steadward, President of the International Paralympic Committee. The Governor-General of Australia, Sir William Deane, then declared the Games open before the flag was brought in and lifted and oaths were made on behalf of the athletes and the judges. Finally, the Paralympic torch was carried in by Katrina Webb who passed it to Louise Sauvage to light the cauldron.

During the Games

The Olympic Village, purpose-built near Homebush Bay, consisted of residential areas and a retail centre, with adjoining wetlands and a nature reserve. After the Games the residential properties were sold and the area became a new suburb called Newington. 

A record number of 1.2 million tickets were sold to spectators to attend events, with 200,000 to 400,000 travelling to the Sydney Olympic Park each day.​

During the Games the Spanish team won gold in the intellectually disabled basketball event. However, it was discovered that 10 of the 12 members of the team were not actually disabled. A few weeks after the Games were over; a parcel arrived at the Paralympic headquarters in Bonn, Germany. Inside was a Spanish team kit, £150 which was the amount given to each athlete as their per diems and a gold medal. Some members of the team later wrote an expose in the Spanish business magazine, Capital, admitting what they had done. They claimed at the Spanish Paralympic Committee were aware that 10 of the players weren’t mentally disabled and that this committee had been involved in recruiting these athletes to play. As a result of this (and the fact that some members of the Russian basketball team were also discovered to not have any mental impairments) it was decided that all intellectually disabled people were to be prevented from participating in the Paralympics. There was no test for ‘mental impairment’ so intellectually disabled people weren’t able to compete again until 2012 when the definition and assessment of mental impairment was reclassified. 

The Medals

Gold medal from the Sydney 2000 Paralympics  Gold medal from the Sydney 2000 Paralympics

Gold medal from the Sydney 2000 Paralympics © Ian Brittain

The bronze medals for the Games were made by the Perth Mint and the Royal Australian mint who melted down defunct cent coins to use in the medals.

For all colours of medals, one side had an image of the Sydney Opera House, the other side had an image of the emblem for the Games next to the three Tae-Gueks and the words ‘Paralympic Summer Games Sydney 2000’.

The medals were held on ribbon which also had a symbol of the Games on one side and the Tae-Gueks on the other.

Medal statistics

3,878 athletes from 123 countries, competed in 550 events in 19 sports.  The Great Britain team of 140 men and 74 women won a total of 41 gold, 43 silver and 47 bronze medals making a total of 131 medals.

British Paralympic athletes

Paralympic wheelchair racer Tanni Grey-Thompson competing at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics

Tanni Grey-Thompson competing at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics. © Getty Images

  • Wheelchair racer Tanni Grey-Thompson performed the best out of the 215 GB athletes by winning four gold medals for wheelchair racing in the T53 category. One of the most successful disabled athletes in the UK, she won a total of 16 Paralympic medals, 11 of which were gold, in her career. In 2005 Tanni was knighted, giving her the title Dame before she was created a life peer and conferred as Baroness Grey-Thompson of Eaglescliffe in the County of Durham in 2010. You can find out more about Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson here.
  • David Roberts, started swimming at the age of 11 after being diagnosed with cerebral palsy.  Winning 3 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze medals for a mix of freestyle, backstroke and medley events at Sydney. Over his Paralympic career he won a total of 19 gold, 7 silver and 1 bronze. Having been made a Member of the Order of the British Empire [MBE] in 2005, in 2009 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire [CBE].
  • James Crisp, also a swimmer, won 3 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals. He competes in the S9 category after contracting polio as a child. In 2011 he was named Sportsman of the Year at the Federation of Disability Sports Organisations Awards Ceremony.
  • Lee Pearson won 3 gold medals in equestrian at his first Paralympics. He was awarded a Knighthood in 2017 for his sporting accomplishments and dedication to charity work.
  • Caroline Innes who is a wheelchair user because of cerebral palsy, won 2 gold and 1 silver for athletics in the T36 category.
  • Nicola Tustain achieved one bronze medal and two gold medals for equestrian. In 2010 she was awarded an MBE for her services to disability sport.
  • Isabel Newstead won a gold medal in air-pistol shooting at the Sydney Games. She made her Paralympic debut in Arnhem in 1980 where she won 3 gold and 1 silver medal and went on to compete at 7 Paralympics in events as diverse as swimming, discus and shooting. At the 1984 Paralympic Games, she won an incredible 9 medals across 3 sports. At the 1988 Seoul Paralympic Games she won a further 4 medals in athletics and shooting. Isabel is best remembered for air-pistol shooting, winning in total 3 Paralympic gold medals. She was awarded the MBE in the 2001 New Year Honours for services to Disabled Sports. You can find out more about Isabel Newstead here.

Paralympian shooter, Isabel Newstead, competing at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics  Isabel Newstead and Deanna Coates with their gold medals at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics

Isabel Newstead competing in para shooting and with Deanna Coates and their winning medals

Media coverage at the event

More than 2300 representatives attended to report on the Games. Over 100 hours of sport was broadcast online to over 103 countries which was viewed an estimated 300 million times during the course of the Games.

Nearly 1.2 million spectator tickets were sold for the events which set a new record for the Paralympics.

The closing ceremony

The closing ceremony was held on Sunday 29th October after 11 days of competition.

Athletes from all nations intermingled as they entered the stadium. During the closing ceremony the millennium choir sang as the Paralympic flag was handed to Nikos Yiatrakos, deputy mayor of Athens, the hosts of the of the 2004 Paralympics.

Robert Steadward, the International Paralympic Committee president, declared that the Games were

an absolutely outstanding event. Thank you for enhancing the profile of our athletes more than at any time in our history . . . the 11th Paralympic Summer Games have been the best ever.

The Paralympic flame was then extinguished which put the stadium into complete darkness.

References

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