Day 100 – Australia (15 September, 2000)
“100 days! 100 fucking days!”. I had to pinch myself that I had made it through this magical journey. It was 4.30am and I still had one final day left to shoot. I had only gotten to bed 3 hours earlier. But I was ecstatic. What a journey this had been. And more than 100 days. With the Oceania leg of the relay I had covered 125 days. I had taken a total of 4 days off in the whole period. But the energy surrounding the event kept me going – even this morning, with just over 3 hours sleep.
The last big moment I covered was golfing great, Greg Norman, carrying the flame across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. His slot was for 6.46am Torchbearer number 22 for the day. I got dropped off ahead of the torch relay at the location Greg was to start his run. At 6.28am he was dropped off, waiting, ready with his torch. I fire off a few test frames to check my camera was working for the day. It was still dark. There was just me, Greg and 3 other torch relay crew to wait with him. It was a very quiet time. The police had blocked 3 lanes on the bridge to allow safe passage.
We had predicted some good media interest in the moment – mainly because it was the iconic Olympic Flame crossing the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge – and Greg Norman was a national hero. An additional media truck had been put on to allow for extra media to film the event. The media motor home, as big and luxurious as it was, could only fit about 8 cameraman shooting out the back of it. The flat bed truck held another 20 cameramen.
Within 12 minutes, of Greg Norman being dropped off, we suddenly had a crowd of fans. I’m not sure where they came from – because the bridge has pretty bad access for pedestrians, and there was a major train line separating the walkway from the road we were waiting on. Minute by minute the crowds got bigger. We radioed back to the approaching convoy of the situation and a dozen or more police were quickly brought up to keep the crowds under control. By 6.46am, when the Mayor of Sydney jogged up to Greg Norman with the Flame, the police had virtually closed the entire bridge traffic (all 8 lanes) as well as shutting down the train lines. Crowds were crossing the train tracks, climbing the bridge gantry, anything to get to see Greg Norman and the Flame up close. It was an amazing sight.
With the Flame now in the hands of Greg, he set off slowly across the bridge. Police surrounded the cocooned torchbearer space as media and public all tried to get a closer look. With my privileged access I kept myself tight inside the security cordon and walked backwards, firing off shots as Greg and escort runner Lucy Polkinghorn shuffled slowly forward. The crowd was so dense that the second media truck could not get close to the action, leaving over 20 irate cameramen 15m behind the action without hope of a single clear shot. Greg handled it well, high-fiving the crowd as smiling the whole way. Lucy was enjoying it just as much.
It took 5 minutes and 48 seconds for the Flame to cross the bridge in the hands of Greg Norman. I shot 46 frames of the moment. It was a challenge again, staying focussed, crouched down, walking backwards as the crowds roared and shoved, and the police strained to keep everything safe and moving forward. My camera and flashed struggled in the pre-dawn light. But I got enough coverage to showcase the moment. It was the last day of the never to repeated Sydney 2000 Olympic Torch Relay and I was happy to have finished with such a special iconic moment in my home town, on that famous bridge that has been part of my life since I was born.
I finished out the day at Taronga Zoo with a few koalas and and kangaroos – but really, the magic for me was done. The next big Flame moment would take place inside the Olympic Stadium that evening. But I would not need to shoot that event. My reward for such a long and draining project was a reserved seat (with some of the other Torch Relay crew members) inside the stadium to watch the Opening Ceremony as a spectator.
So after filing my last few photos and transmitting them to news agencies and newspapers around the world, I sat back and enjoyed the magical show that was the Sydney 2000 Olympic Opening Ceremony. And I was proudest when the crescendo of the whole ceremony was the arrival of the Olympic Flame. I was humbled to think the journey that I had witnessed and photographed was all leading to this incredible moment in time – witnessed by over a billion people around the world. I could not have asked for a better of more fitting end to my journey.