Sydney . I'm spending too much money. Especially on film.

The Torch Relay was due to return to Circular Quay this afternoon for its last stop in the city before setting off for the Opening Ceremony at the Stadium. In the morning it crossed the Harbor Bridge to the northern suburbs, including the Zoo. According to the website ( timetable: "4.24 p.m. The Olympic flame will be carried on a Sydney Ferry between Manly and Circular Quay with the cauldron burning on the bow of the ferry."

Wandered through the city center. There's a Versace exhibition in a building formerly occupied by a bank. Decided to give it a miss today. Was told at the post office that Australian Olympic-issue stamps are for domestic use only. Stamps for international use have the word "International" on them, and these don't include Olympic ones. Sounds nuts to me. It's not going to stop me using the Olympics stamps on my internationally-bound postcards.

At Circular Quay an ocean liner was berthed near the Museum of Contemporary Art (2 others are at the Naval Dockyards). Swiss flags draped from some balconies of the new apartment complex. The American Express bureau showing the A$ dropping in value. In front of the Opera House were tiers of seats waiting for tomorrow's triathlon event. Sightseers of all nationalities, many with the ubiquitous plastic-cased access IDs and whatnot dangling from their necks. Some Sydney residents have become so irritated by these IDS (gratuitously worn everywhere by Olympics staff and tourists even when unnecessary) that they've taken to making and wearing ones of their own. Took up a spot on the forecourt steps of the Opera House, near the water.

It wasn't until then that I remembered that the Manly-Circular Quay ferry trip takes about 30 minutes, and it'd probably be even longer today. This didn't seem to have occurred to other sightseers either, who at 4.24 p.m. huddled at the steps railing and turned their gaze north-east over the water and waited in vain for the Torch ferry to appear. Shivered in the east wind blowing from the Harbor. Two people near me looked at photographs of their recent holiday in Greece and Italy. A young woman in a dress made out of a Union Jack, her boyfriend in Union Jack hat and cape. Watched a police dog and divers variously examine the nearby Man O'War Jetty, to which the Torch would be brought by launch after its arrival at the Quay. Police boats stationed themselves near Bennelong Point. Special Squad cops patrolled the area.

At last in the north-east distance we spotted a Water Police tugboat spouting huge jets of water, which seemed to herald the appearance of the ferry. It soon came into sight around a headland, surrounded by civilian craft. The ever-present helicopters. The flotilla came closer and we saw there was a small boat ahead of it, flying the Aboriginal flag. We strained to catch sight of the flame--no sign of it. As the ferry passed the Naval Dockyards one of the ocean liners hooted 3 times, the ferry hooted back, and the liner replied--Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The ferry disappeared from our eyes behind the Opera House; we'd not expected to see it again, but, standing on the forecourt steps with our back to the water, we caught sight of the ferry docking at the Quay and--"There it is!"--in a vessel on the bow, was, indeed the Olympic flame.

It then travelled (in the form of two lit lanterns) by police launch in a short trip from the Quay at the left of the Opera House to the Man O' War Jetty at the right. The lantern carriers disembarked and vanished into the bowels of the Opera House, to the puzzlement of the assembled crowds who seemed at a loss as to where to go next. People rushed from one part of the forecourt to another. I was hungry and frozen stiff, all I wanted to do was get down the steps and back to the city (the image of a hamburger with hot salty fries was beckoning); and as all the other avenues were blocked off, the only way to do it was to take the long way round the waterfront at the back of the Opera House. Here were more crowds, looking up at the Opera House sails as if waiting for somebody to jump off them--but there was nobody there. At ground level to the left of the Opera House were even more people, all mysteriously also staring up. An Australian network TV crew were filming a reporter, people cramming in to stand behind him and wave their flags madly, their cheers and the sound of the helicopters above almost drowning out his words. German tourists laughed at the sight. Near and above us the crowds on the edge of the forecourt steps watched and waved and photographed us. Then, suddenly, was what everyone including the TV crew had ostensibly been waiting for: the appearance of the Torch carrier on top of one of the Opera House sails. She was a tiny figure against the clouded sky, holding up the Torch, the seemingly-fluorescent flame visible even at that distance. More loud cheering and waving. Helicopters hovered near.

It was 6.15 p.m. Time to leave. I and hundreds of people hurried back to the central business district--some to take public transport home to their TV sets, others to parties, others to open-air party-type venues around the city where the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony would be broadcast live on video screens. I'd forgotten that Martin Place was one such site, and made the mistake of taking a "shortcut" through, a big mistake. Before I realized it I was in the midst of thousands of people sitting on the ground in Martin Place between Macquarie and Phillip Streets, in front of the video screen below the Olympic Rings installation. Many others standing at the side. Found out afterwards that site officials turned away late arrivals because there just wasn't any room left. There, at the time, I figured the only way out was to get across to the other side. Once you've committed yourself to traversing a large public square by stepping gingerly across a sea of seated people, hundreds of pairs of eyes watching you amusedly or with resentment, the only thing to do is get to the other side as fast as possible while treading on the least number of people's extremities. A relief to be out of the spotlight of attention and into a quiet side street.

Further on I passed carefree revellers making their way to Martin Place (poor deluded fools) with cases of beer. A long line waiting to enter a liquor store; the streets otherwise emptying fast. At 7 p.m. began the event I'm told Sydneysiders have waited 7 years (it seemed a lifetime) for: the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. Which needs no description by me.

September 9, 2000
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September 24,2000
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October 1, 2000
October 2, 2000