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Sandip Hor

Sydney to Athens
Memory notes of a Sydney 2000 Olympic volunteer

As the cauldron is lighted during the opening ceremony of the 2004 Athens Olympics, I take a journey down the memory lane to 15 September 2000 at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic games. As a Protocol Supervisor for IOC and SOCOG, I was running around the VIP enclosure of the Olympic Stadium at Homebush to welcome the various IOC members, Olympic officials and dignitaries from various countries. It was a very long and tiring day, but imagine the thrills and excitement that I was experiencing of being part of the greatest sporting festival in the world.

Yes, I was one of those 50000 volunteers who really made the difference to make Sydney Olympics the best ever Olympic games.

Being at Stadium Australia, I was lucky enough to be present for all the events that took place there, but that does not mean that I was able to watch all of it, because most of the time, we the Protocol Supervisors were awfully busy managing the protocol and relationship issues with IOC members, Olympic officials, sporting legends and dignitaries from all over the world that included Heads of States, Crown Princes, Presidents and Prime Ministers.

Four years have gone by since then and there has been many changes to the world. As I recall my memories from Sydney Olympics I see some interesting changes too.

IOC chief Juan Antonio Samaranch after the success of Sydney games has passed on the leadership in 2001 to Jackques Rogge who was then the Vice President. Antonio Samaranch was a star by himself. He showed brilliant leadership to make Sydney Games the best ever Olympics and will be at Athens as the only Honorary President of IOC.

Chelsea Clinton is still daughter of Bill and Hillary, but is no longer the daughter of the most powerful person in the world as Bill Clinton is not the President of USA anymore. But for me, I remember Chelsea as I saw her and being most impressed by the simple and humble behaviour from the American President’s daughter.

The two European Crown Princes I met are now married with one of them who did plant the seed for their relationship in Sydney during the Olympics. Prince Frederic from Denmark met Aussie girl Mary Donaldson in Sydney and after four years of courtship they got married this year in Copenhagen.

The Crown Prince from Spain also got married this year. I have a story to tell about my first meeting with him. One evening, I was told to go down to main entrance to greet and escort the Prince Felipe of Spain. I was anxiously waiting for him with my mindset of royal prince in royal attire, as I read in fairy tales. After a while , not seeing anyone I asked the Federal Police guy when is the Prince coming. He pointed me to a small group of young people walking past me at that moment with one of them in jeans and tea shirt being the Crown Prince. I was disappointed. I met him again during the football final day when Spain played against Cameroon for the gold medal. He was disappointed when Spain lost at the penalty shoot out. He went inside and started watching the waterpolo final where Spain was playing Russia. Same story there again. Spain conceded a goal at the last minute of the extra time and lost the match. He was not in very good mood after that. While escorting him back to his transport, I mentioned to him in some sort of a consolation that Spain played excellent football with only nine players against eleven of Cameroon. It was the bad luck that took away their two gold medals, He acknowledged my consolation and while leaving presented me with the Olympic Pin from Spain.

I remember my time with Crown Prince Deependra from Nepal, who unfortunately killed himself after killing other members of his family. He used to smoke cigarettes and during one of those moments he talked to me about Australia, India and Nepal. When I got the news of the tragic incident it was hard for me to believe what that young man had in his destiny.

Australia’s golden girl Cathy Freeman is retired now. Her golden run in women’s 400m was the golden moment of Sydney Olympics.For her medal presentation, I was responsible to escort the IOC and the Federation member to her. While doing so, I took that very gold medal in my hand and felt I was so close and so far away from an Olympic gold medal. She will be in Athens as a TV commentator.

Susie O’Neill, our swimming star for many Olympics including Sydney will be in Athens not as a competitor, but as an IOC member.

Michael Knight the NSW Government Minister is not a Member of Parliament any more. However I must say that Michael deserves a lot of credit for the success of the Games. So does Peter Ryan who was the Sydney police chief, now advising Athens committee on security and policing.

Another major change is the operation of CityRail which was timely,brilliant and praiseworthy during the Games, but not anymore as evident from recent media reports.

There are many other changes in between Sydney and Athens and I hope these changes do not affect the sacred spirit of the Olympic games. However I have deliberately frozen my memory with Sydney as that memory tastes sweet and gives me the pleasure, pride and sense of a lifetime achievement. I still hear the roars and the cheers from Stadium Australia, I still visualise myself in the Olympic blazer and tie ushering Prince of Swaziland or the IOC member from Ireland to their seats, sorting out the football gold medal presentation for Cameroon or getting some games information for Chelsea Clinton. I keep this memory alive by looking at the pins that I received, by telling stories to friends and family and at quite moments cherishing the glorious moments of Stadium Australia with “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie – Oi, Oi, Oi” banging my ears.

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