Round the World Travel Guide
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This will be my last mail from Sydney and obviously one issue is dominating the town, that is the small sporting event that will be starting here in a couple of days time. If Sydney was trying to remain calm and collected before, with only two days to go before the Opening Ceremony, all attempts have been dropped and everyone is gearing up to party for two weeks solid.
I think that the best way to start is by pointing out some of the statistics that are being mentioned around town:
Walking around Sydney there seems to be three fashion items that are essential in the Olympic City (none of which I own), these include:
National Team Tracksuit
These are everywhere and everyone who wears them seem to be treated as heroes, with autographs being sought and photos being taken. This has also resulted in a new game being played in the house: Who has spotted the most obscure nationality of sportsman around town? I think the winner so far has been the Ivory Coast (how big can their team be??).
These are issued to everyone, from the President of the IOC to the cleaners around the streets. They are worn around the neck and give the wearers such pleasure that they can sometimes be seen clutching them in their hands and grinning insanely (obviously with the thought that they are better than those around them who have not been given one). These bits of plastic allow the wearer to go into any restricted area and catch any public transport for free!!
Official Olympic Staff Uniforms
These can only be described as grim and they are everywhere. All the volunteers are given the uniforms to help visitors to identify them easily. Basically they are a pair of ill fitting Chinos topped off with one of the worst colored polo shirts I have ever seen (Xay, the American in the house, has one of the uniforms, but refuses to let us see her in it, as she knows that we will all laugh and try and take photos of her!!!).
Around town, you can’t ignore the number of Camera Crews around, I’ve never seen so many. I was on Bondi Beach on Monday, and I saw five different crews, all doing the exact same thing. They all talked to the camera about the beach lifestyle and surfing and then tried to find the most stereotyped-looking surfer and have an interview with them just as they emerged from the sea.
One area that has totally amazed me is the level of commercialism. Of course, I know that the Olympics are fuelled by the Dollar, but until you see it, you really can’t be prepared. From Coca-Cola’s live radio and pin trading arena (in English these are known as badges and people are obsessed by them here), IBM’s Surf Shack (free internet access and technology demonstrations) the “Contemplation” arena sponsored by Rank Xerox, to the “Olympic Heroes” Pavilion sponsored by Visa.
In the Olympic Venues the only credit cards that people are allowed to use is Visa as they are the official sponsors. Throughout the city the six main Olympic sponsors have the biggest posters at the best sites. You really can’t avoid them, and their messages of Support for the Olympic Ideals.
As of today, the Olympic Transport policy is put into place. Trains and buses running 24hrs a day, seven days a week, with no on street parking in any of the city. Also taking place over the weeks have been the increasing number of public restricted areas. Now instead of taking just 15mins to walk into the center of town, it takes well over 25 minutes!!
It wasn’t until last weekend that I really started to get excited about the games (despite not being here for most of them). I got a call from my old University friend on Saturday, who had a couple of free spare tickets for the final Dress Rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony, and did I want to come along (the word “free” is always a good one to use to a backpacker).
Everyone in the Stadium had been sworn to secrecy (it’s the first time that there has been an Opening Ceremony dress rehearsal), but I will say is that I have never witnessed anything quite as spectacular in my life. With thousands of performers and hundreds of musicians it truly is something that has to be witnessed. It has everything from amazing visuals to spine tingling music, incorporating everything that is great about Australia, from the Ancient Aborigines to the wildlife that is unique to this island. All I suggest is to watch it on TV as you won’t be disappointed.
So, I only have four days here while the Olympics are on, so I plan to make the most of it. I will try and catch a sight of the torch as it makes its way through the streets (along with hundreds of thousands of locals), I will go to the six live venues where bands and DJ’s will be playing free gigs throughout the games. But most of all, I will be wondering around the streets trying to catch the unique atmosphere that this event will provide. Sydney at the moment is truly the place that the whole world is watching, and that makes it an exciting place to be.
Hope you enjoy the Games. I’ll update you all once I’ve settled in Melbourne (hopefully minus the rioting!!)