Sydney. I've realized that these past 17 days have been the best time of my life. Never thought I'd ever say that about time spent in Sydney. I've never been as happy as I've been during this Olympics period--living in the moment without looking back or into the future, savoring the pleasures of every minute. My first Olympic Games... And to think I almost wasn't here--that I'm in Sydney by default, not by choice. It was worth it.

More pin madness today. To Darling Harbor to examine the wares of the traders there. Many were selling Atlanta 1996 pins for A$1 (US$0.55) each--they'd brought suitcases full of 'em and they'll probably go back with them. After you've seen a tray of 50 or so Atlanta pins your eyes glaze over and it's impossible to take in more. And there are more...than you've ever wanted. It's a tragedy for someone somewhere. Acquired Soviet Union pins from Helsinki 1952 and Tokyo 1964, a Spanish one from Barcelona 1992, one from Seoul 1988. Saw a Soviet medal and ribbon from a meeting of IOC delegates in Moscow 1980. Then took the the pins back to my room to gloat over them for a few minutes. It was 3.30 p.m. and the Men's Marathon was starting in North Sydney at 4, then coming south over the Harbor Bridge.

I crossed Hyde Park to the part of the route that passes St Mary's Cathedral. People had already taken up position there and laid Australian, Japanese, German flags along the barriers. 4 o'clock came and went; so did a lone policeman on a motorbike, waving at the crowds who were applauding ironically. A slow handclap began. Then came the 7 media helicopters overhead, the cars leading the marathon, and the runner who was ahead of the bunch. Huge cheers. The main pack of runners, which included an Australian, came and went to the accompanying cry of "Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oi Oi Oi!!" Straggling runners a couple of minutes behind them. Didn't wait to see all of them; raced back across Hyde Park to Bathurst Street in the city center, through which the marathon would pass after returning from the inner eastern suburbs.

This was the 25-km mark and a drinks stop, and here Olympic volunteers were still setting out bottles of refreshment on tables under signs bearing the runners' countries. The bottle for the Australian athlete had a small flag of his country waving from it... We waited in blinding sunshine and a freezing wind. A middle-aged British tourist on my right with a small yellow toy kangaroo ("Go Aussie Go!" on it) peeping from her bag to watch the marathon. A young British tourist on my left in tank top, pudgy bare midriff, pierced navel, nailpolish of various shades, video camera. A group of Japanese tourists waving Japanese flags. Somebody with a Chilean flag. Drunken Australians singing Waltzing Matilda. The volunteers giving spare drinks bottles to children among the spectators.

It took an hour for the first exhausted-looking runners (and the ever-present helicopters) to arrive at that spot, and then about 20 minutes for all of them to come and go. More generous applause during all of this--not just for the competitors themselves, but it seemed a venting of pent-up emotion for the last Olympic event ever to be seen in these streets. By which time it was almost 6 p.m. The Closing Ceremony at 8.

The best things about the Closing Ceremony:
Juan Antonio Samaranch enunciating the "Aussie Aussie Aussie!" rallying cheer during his speech
Kylie Minogue singing Abba's Dancing Queen.
The Harbor Bridge part of the fireworks
Samaranch declaring to Sydney that " have presented to the world the best Olympic Games ever."

September 9, 2000
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September 18, 2000
September 24, 2000
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October 2, 2000