We flew out of Sydney, with our three teenage daughters, on the day before the Olympics started on 14 September 2000.
Wow, that’s twenty years ago today!
It was a trip of a lifetime – for all of us!
We were off to visit Denmark, Sweden, England, Paris and Japan for about 6 weeks.
I remember being at the airport for hours (a huge family joke) and watching tourists, athletes and teams arriving in all their regalia. There were volunteers everywhere directing people, helping out and basically welcoming everyone to Sydney. It was fascinating to watch all the action, and luckily for us, it kept us amused for the hours of waiting for our flight.
In case you’ve forgotten, the Games went from 15 September to 1 October 2000.
Looking back it probably wasn’t the most patriotic thing to do but it suited our plans perfectly.
Our eldest two daughters were in Year 11 and Year 9 at high school and the youngest was in her final year of primary school. So no major schooling would be missed, considering the Olympics coincided with school holidays and were extended due to the Games. It meant the girls would only miss a few weeks or so of school. As the Mathematician was the Maths Head Teacher at school, we didn’t get into too much trouble!
The Mathematician was taking part in an Educational Cultural Exchange where he joined with a Danish teacher, Walther, for two weeks, living and working with him, and later in the year Walter came to our small town in Australia on a reciprocal visit.
This was the Mathematician’s second Cultural Exchange of this nature, having successfully completed the same program in 1999, again in Denmark, with the delightful Vibe. We are still in touch with Vibe and her family and see them whenever we visit Denmark.
The Mathematician had participated in a full year Teacher Exchange back in 1992 , where our family swapped jobs, houses, cars and basically lives, with an English Maths teacher and they went to live in our home in Tumbarumba NSW Australia. Our daughters were young back then aged 8, 6 and 3 at the time of moving across the world.
It was also our first family overseas trip – I think my motto was ‘go big or go home’ – yes I was a bit mad! It was a fantastic experience for all of us at the time, but not without its stresses, I can assure you!
Anyway back to September in the year 2000.
While the Mathematician was involved in his cultural exchange, the girls and I stayed with Danish friends Vibe and Svend and then with Sophie and her parents Elke and per, they have all become more like family to us.
I was given the use of Vibe’s car to drive us from one side of Denmark to the other, to stay with our Danish exchange student Sophie, who had lived with us for a year back in 1997/98.
I had a bit of trouble driving on the wrong side of the car on the opposite side of the road but managed quite well with the girls helping out whenever they thought I needed some direction, mainly to stay on the ‘right’ side of the road! Roundabouts were hard work.
We followed the Olympics as best we could from Denmark but they were into very different sports to us – think handball! Also the TV coverage was in Danish and we couldn’t understand very much. We still enjoyed seeing it all from a different perspective, especially the opening ceremony where we all cheered loudly for Australia!
On the day Cathy Freeman was running her final, 25 September 2000, the girls and I had driven across the countryside and arrived in Copenhagen. We had the car radio on as we drove, and were listening to a Danish station unable to understand very much. But every now and again we heard Cathy Freeman’s name and realised something important had happened, but we were unsure of exactly what.
We were in a department store, just wandering around soaking up the different atmosphere, when we realised that all the TV monitors were showing the Olympic Games.
We stood and watched, transfixed, as Cathy Freeman won her 400 metre finals race. We suddenly understood what the radio excitement had been about.
We can all clearly remember the feelings of pride that we were Australians on the other side of the world watching this momentous event. It was spine chilling and even today I get goosebumps in remembering that event.
I’ve just watched Freeman on ABC TV – with Cathy Freeman sharing her thoughts and insights of that race 20 years ago and her road to success. It was spine tingling stuff!
FREEMAN is a cinematic portrait of the 49.11 second race that is still etched in our hearts and minds. Drawing on archival footage and a series of intimate conversations with Cathy Freeman, the film takes viewers on a journey through Cathy’s remarkable sporting career and the frenzied build-up to September 2000. Cathy’s fast-paced climb to the top of the world is mirrored by the rise of a people’s movement supporting reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Her story became the symbol of a much larger struggle for equality. Source
So much has happened in those 20 years but I can still clearly remember our travels that year.
Yes I wish we could have attended the Olympics in our home country but we were busy creating other memories.
After that trip
Once we’d visited Denmark and Sweden we made our way to England to stay in the village we’d lived in when we did our first Teacher Exchange in 1992. It was fabulous for the girls to see their old home, their school and their friends again.
Our eldest daughter reignited friendships on that trip and within a few years she’d travelled back there and worked a GAP year in the village we’d lived in. She came home after her year away and completed a university degree. In a completely amazing coincidence she has been living back in the area since moving to England in 2007. She now has a partner, baby daughter, a dog and a rabbit and enjoys life in the small village of Cheddar in Somerset, where we’d lived as family in 1992. Isn’t it strange how life works out?
Our second daughter went on to do a GAP year working as a nanny in northern Italy, which was amazing considering she couldn’t speak any Italian when she left Australia. She went on to study at university with Italian as one of her subjects and travelled to Sweden for a university exchange for a semester. After finishing her degree she moved to England and worked there meeting her now husband, before both of them returned to Australia for good. They have a 2 year old daughter and another baby due in early 2021.
During that trip in 2000, our youngest daughter and I had an exciting side trip to Paris for a few days. You see, I have taken each of the girls on a mother/daughter trip before they moved onto high school and Eliza jokingly suggested we could go to Paris for her trip. So that’s we did! We had a fabulous time together but the other two were a bit miffed I have to say!! She also went to England for a year after finishing high school, working at an Activity Camp teaching children archery, canoeing, rope work and other exciting things. She came home after her GAP year and did a degree at university and has worked hard in a variety of areas since then. She now has a husband and a baby boy!
All three girls have travelled extensively and I like to think that we have helped contribute to their love of travel and seeing the world. I was 31 before leaving Australia on our first family trip but the girls have been fortunate to see the world at various ages and it has helped them in many ways. Our family motto is from the Danish saying – To Travel is to Live
Life this week
So what were you doing when the Sydney Olympics were on?
Thanks to Denyse for this week’s prompt for #lifethisweek – Remembering Sydney 2000. It’s been fabulous to look back through the photo albums and reminisce about our last huge family trip before the girls finished school and moved on with their lives.
Thanks for letting me share these memories with you.
Debbie is an award winning blogger and lives in the small town of Tumbarumba in NSW Australia. Married for 40 years, with three grown up daughters, Debbie and the Mathematician are avid travellers, cyclists and adventurers. Described by others as a ‘hummingbird on speed’ this active mother and grandmother has also received a bravery award from the Queen.
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