Sydney. I'm exhausted, as if I'd been through some draining emotional event. But all that happened is that I saw the Olympic Torch Relay pass through the city center. This may be a common experience: an acquaintance who went to last night's Opening Ceremony dress rehearsal had a hangover this morning like she'd been on a punishing all-night binge.

The Torch Relay came to the central business district today, and at last it felt like this is indeed the Olympic city. There're banners in the street and souvenirs in the stores, commercials on TV and the news reports of the Torch making its way around the state and entering Sydney's outer suburbs--today it became a reality as the Torch came through the inner suburbs and into the city in the afternoon. The street timetable on the website said the Torch would be on George Street about 5.56 p.m., turning right into Park Street and then left into Elizabeth Street at 6.03 p.m. I intended to be there somewhere.

There was a large video screen at the George & Park Streets intersection (where Town Hall is), and at 5 p.m. crowds waving Australian flags had already made that area impassable. I walked east down Park Street. The queue at the ticket bureau around the corner on Elizabeth Street was longer than ever. Across was an apartment high-rise, the Canadian flag draped from a balcony railing about 20 floors up. Walked around for a couple of blocks, looking at the understated Olympics-related window displays for Armani and fcuk. The Grace Bros department store diplayed swimming costumes from previous Games, including Munich 1972. About 5.45 went back to Elizabeth Street to wait near the Sheraton-on the-Park Hotel. The sidwalk here was fairly empty of spectators but began to get crowded. Traffic was still being allowed through. Lots of cyclists, at whom the spectators applauded ironically as they showed off on their bikes.

Elizabeth Street is a 4-or 5-lane main road through the city center (with Hyde Park on one side of of it)--but as the traffic was blocked off and anticipation rose, the waiting crowds as if drawn by invisible magnets moved as one from the kerbs to the middle of the road and stood looking south: from which direction the Torch runner would emerge from Park Street. Police cars and coppers on bicycles came through pushing us back to the kerb, but we were not to be deterred. We'd lost all detachment and composure and were infected with New Year's Eve-type excitement and goodwill. We photographed the crowds' anticipatory faces, taking pictures of each other (total strangers, tourists and Sydneysiders) taking pictures. Helicopters and a blimp (with "G'day" on its side) hovering above.

At last the Relay turned the corner and moved north towards us. Police on motorbikes, a coach carrying other Relay runners (for future stages), then the Torch carrier herself--if I remember rightly, a little old lady in a wheelchair, accompanied by attendants. It's all a blur. All I remember seeing is the Torch aflame, the golden fire the focus of everyone's cheers and cameras. As the procession (an ambulance at the end of it) passed us, the masses broke ranks and swarmed over the road, dispersing to go elsewhere or follow after the Torch. It went onwards, north through Martin Place (a public square that runs east-west--uphill--across about 4 blocks). Officeworkers watched from the ornate stone balconies of the nearby 19th century buildings. A very large public party seemed to be happening near the metal Olympic Rings installation in Martin Place; the video screen here showing the Torch's progress. More people than I've ever seen anywhere except for Circular Quay on December 31 last year; weaved my way eastward and up Martin Place to the Rings to photograph the swarms below. Heard cheers on the Macquarie Street side and saw people running in that direction--it was the Torch Relay going south past Sydney Hospital and Hyde Park Barracks, and then veering east to the Art Gallery of New South Wales and after that to Bennelong Point and the Opera House.

I was too tired to follow. By now I had completely stopped thinking, and was just going with the moment and soaking up visuals. People were streaming from Martin Place to and across Hyde Park, and I drifted with them. Saw St Mary's Cathedral to the side of the Park; it has a new forecourt which I'd never seen before. A wide open space surrounded by the city's skyscrapers in the west and south and some apartment buildings to the east. Like a stage. It was 6.30 p.m., and surreally peaceful after the confusion of the Torch's progress. Sunless, a cool grey sky. Towards the north-east I could see the helicopters and blimp following the Torch Relay. It would be coming back into the central business district, to the Town Hall, in about an hour's time. City blocks were still closed, it was like a street party. So I went to my room (up in a city building) to have a wash. One TV channel had a live broadcast of the Torch Relay and another had a Seinfeld re-run (George becomes a Latvian Orthodox convert). The sun set; on TV was the Torch at the Opera House, the Olympic Rings logo in lights on the side of the Harbor Bridge. It was dark now. Through the window I could see the full moon rising golden in the east, behind searchlights beaming into the sky from the top of another skyscraper.

Got to the roof, 50 storeys up, to see the Torch returning to the Town Hall. I was looking westward along Park Street. Thousands of people were down there, watching the video screen showing the Torch's approach. And then as it arrived at the Town Hall intersection hundreds of camera flashes criss-crossed amidst the crowds. The runner took the flaming Torch up the steps, to the cauldron outside the Town Hall. Speeches. Then the cauldron was lit to huge cheers. (The flame will set off from here tomorrow morning for the city north of the Harbor, and in the evening arrive at the Olympic Stadium for the Opening Ceremony.) Fireworks from the Town Hall's spires and clocktower. Helicopters overhead. I went down and outside to go look at the flame in the cauldron.

The road surface was covered with discarded trash, cans, bottles. Woolworths, which faces the Town Hall, was still open, and its staff looked on in mingled horror and resignation as dispersing crowds used the store as a shortcut from one part of the street to another. It was selling Olympic souvenirs of all kinds, and I examined them in some bemusement. Saw a pin of the 3 mascots with the words "My First Olympic Games". Bought postcards and more film.

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