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Sydney's Opening Ceremonies Mark Official Beginning of 2000 Olympic Games

Aired September 15, 2000 - 1:07 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The Land Down Under is on the top of the world today. Opening ceremonies in Sydney's Olympic Stadium marked the official beginning of the 2000 games.

As Nick Charles of CNN Sports Illustrated now reports, it was a glittering spectacle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK CHARLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sydney, Australia has hosted plenty of parties, but none to match the fever pitch that was opening night for the 2000 Olympic games. A lot of Australians who may not want to admit it now weren't so happy about the games coming here. But after all the grumbling about how much it would cost, national pride won out. Australia became consumed with the Olympic spirit and became the center of the world at opening ceremonies.

The parade of athletes numbered nearly 11,000. They came from 200 nations around the globe and through the alphabet, from Albania to Zimbabwe. Among the notable stories that transcended sports were the two Koreas becoming one again, at least for a night, as athletes from the divided North and South joined hands and shared smiles.

MICHAEL KNIGHT, SYDNEY ORGANIZING COMMITTEE: We feel that when things like that happen, these become important symbolic events which move a process forward and from which there is no turning back. So we feel very privileged to at least play a small part in seeing that occurs.

CHARLES: The U.S. team of more than 600-strong was led onto the floor by flag bearer Cliff Midal (ph), a kayaker competing in his second Olympics whose amazing story includes being literally brought back to life after being electrocuted 14 years ago.

The last team to be introduced were the hosts. The Aussies were led by basketball's Andrew Gaves (ph), then the culmination. The Olympic torch had passed through 11,000 hands, been carried with pride from the Great Barrier Reef to the desert, from the bush to the beach. And on Friday night, it was Cathy Freeman who ascended the steps of the stadium and, torch in hand, lit the Olympic cauldron that will burn throughout the games.

It was all part of an opening ceremony that presented the culture of Australia to the world.

KNIGHT: For us, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show something about Australia and Australians, about our culture, about our history, about hour capacities and our enthusiasm.

CHARLES (on camera): Beyond the coming together of so many cultures is a fascinating fact about the athletes that illustrates the diversity of the Olympic games. The oldest participant is a 63-year- old rifleman from the Virgin Islands, the youngest a 13-year-old female swimmer from Maldez (ph).

All anybody can really say now is, let the games begin.

In Sydney, Australia, I'm Nick Charles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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