. Warm and stuffy--34.5ºC, a record for a spring day here. In the evening went to Circular Quay. On the way saw a bagpiper busking at the Pitt Street Mall. Also there was an Italian
TV crew shooting in front of The Olympic Store. They were trying to film their reporter against a background of crowds swarming in and out of the store, but had left it too late in the day--it was 6.45 p.m.--so now most people were elsewhere
a small bunch of people gathered to watch, amusedly rejecting the crew's attempts to recruit them as extras to enter the store. Nearby, people dressed in UPS uniforms distributed free plastic carrier bags for the "official express delivery partner" of the Olympics
; a member of the Belarus
athletic team swapped a pin with one of them.
The streets were filled with people walking to the Quay. It was 7.15 when I got there. A curious experience to see the place so crowded at night: not with commuters catching trains or ferries, but sightseers strolling around or leaning against the rail, having their picture taken. For it's here, near the southern foot of the Harbor Bridge, that one first sees in their entirety the giant Olympic rings illuminated on the side of the Bridge. In the darkness they're a pale gold. When people see them for the first time they stand staring and silent, then out come the cameras. Circular Quay has always been a natural focus point: it's on the Harbor and flanked by the Museum of Contemporary Art on its western side and the Opera House on its east, ferries and train station in its mouth--but this area has been transformed at night by the proximity of the interlocked rings on the Bridge. Now spectators, tourists, families stream there and linger in their glow as if warmed by it. Near the northern foot of the Bridge is Luna Park, brilliantly lit up; it's not possible to take too many photographs of this whole scene.
In front of the Museum of Contemporary Art were performers doing a fire act. It was too crowded to see anything. I walked eastwards along the water to the Opera House, past newly-built buildings housing cafés and restaurants with their filled tables out in the open air. Above, from the balcony of the soon-to-be Swiss restaurant, drinkers looked down at us and across at the Bridge. The skyscrapers at the Quay and in the city center became an impressive sight--some say the best harbor spectacle in the world. Not being a stranger to it I tried to remember seeing it for the first time, thinking how like a movie set it was--the way Batman's cityscape should really have looked.
Here in the approach to the Opera House the assembled masses were larger. Must've a been a few thousand altogether. There was a rumor that there'd be a laser show from the Bridge at 8.30., and people leaned or sat on the railings, gazing west across the water at the Bridge. Somebody remarked that it was like New Year's Eve, but less frantic. There are fireworks here at New Year's, and it's notorious as a meeting-place for drunken louts, and for beer cans and bottles carpeting the ground; but tonight the atmosphere was of people fortunate to be in Sydney during the Olympics and wanting to savor every sight, every moment. Many families with small children.
I sat on the railing and waited for the rumored lasers. Below was a concourse (corresponding to the lower level of the Opera House), with an open-air restaurant near the waterfront. A family of 7--five children under 10 years--were on my left. The youngest child was very fond of the Australian cry "Aussie Aussie Aussie!" (which should be answered with the obligatory deafening "Oi! Oi! Oi!" by all within range), but this was received in silence or by half-hearted responses by her siblings (or "Shhh! Shhh! Shhh!" by an embarrassed older brother). Then she called it out once more, and this time total strangers dining in the restaurant replied enthusiastically. Funny to hear this child's shrill yells above answered by bellowed grown-up voices on the concourse below, joined by more voices all round as they finished with the call-and-reply "Aussie!" "Oy!" "Aussie!" "Oy!" "Aussie Aussie Aussie!" "Oy! Oy! Oy!!". Of course, something like that doesn't happen twice.
8.30 came and went without lasers. But there was what has been happening every night for the last few weeks (but will finish on Sunday): the Opera House sails are bathed in "a moving wash of colors". Swathes of multicolored illumination move across the sails, apparently representing fire, water, earth and air. Went closer and looked up at the colors changing, intensifying and fading. People up on the steps were silhouetted against it. Walked clockwise around the Opera House; the blinking lights of planes going by far overhead, a seagull closer. Ferries and harbor cruise boats traversing the black water. Skyscrapers in the city center with searchlights beaming from their roofs. Looked through the windows of two offices in which TV sets were on and showing the women's hockey final (Australia won).
Then went up to the top of the steps, to what I think is one of the Opera House's main entrances, glass-walled and leading to a large plush lobby; the main restaurant (facing the Harbor Bridge) is here too. In the lobby some staff were standing watching a TV set. But outside the entrance and against the glass were two sloping supporting walls about 10 feet high with a sort of ledge at the top, which were being used as slides by a couple of dozen children. They'd run up the walls to the ledge, perch there, slide down with screams and squeals, run back up again. More and more families ascended the steps to this level and their children would see the "slides" and hesitate, the grown-ups would urge them on, the children would run to the the slides and the grown-ups would follow indulgently with cameras. And all this was happening in a sort of dusky half-light, the changing colors of the Opera House sails above it all.
Stayed and watched for about 20 minutes: in front of me the children yelling without restraint on the "slides"; other children riding around on ubiquitous small silver scooters; to my left and through a gap between sails, the sight beyond of the Olympic rings on the Harbor Bridge. Tried to figure out why I found all this so moving and somehow emblematic of this city during the Olympic Games...something to do with a national icon, an internationally-recognizable landmark, an opera house for god's sake, being used as a kids' playground, and there were no police or security guards to be seen anywhere.
On the way back to the city center, half a block south of the Regent Hotel (IOC headquarters), was a bar and a row of people were sitting in its window facing out and doing the Mexican wave at passersby.
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