Host City: Sydney, Australia
Date Started: September 22, 2000
Date Finished: September 30, 2000
Participants: 2,137 (1,257 men and 880 women) from 193 countries
Youngest Participant: Direma Banasso (14 years, 298 days)
Oldest Participant: Chris Maddocks (43 years, 186 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 13 athletes with 2 medals
Most Medals (Country): United States (16 medals)
The Sydney Olympics was a sublime two weeks down under, and when IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch proclaimed them the greatest Games ever at the Closing Ceremony, few would disagree. But strangely, the track & field competition did not stand out in 2000. The big star of athletics probably occurred not in the stadium but on the roads. Polish walker Robert Korzeniowski defended his title in the 50 km. walk, and also won the 20 km. title, the first time that double has been achieved at the Olympics. Korzeniowski would return in 2004 to win the 50 km. for the third consecutive time. One noteworthy item concerned the women’s program. Women competed in the pole vault and hammer throw at Sydney, and with the 20 km. walk on the program now, women had almost an equal program to the men, lacking only a second walk event, and the steeplechase.
To the Australians, the star of the show was also a woman – Cathy Freeman. Freeman was of Aboriginal ancestry and Australian planned to make a show during the Sydney Olympics that they were now treating the original Australians well. Freeman was chosen to light the torch at the Opening Ceremony. She did so and then during the Olympics, won the 400 metres. She is the only Olympic athlete to have won a gold medal and lit the torch at the same Olympics.
Michael Johnson (USA) and Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) defended their titles in the 400 and 10K. A big upset occurred in the 1,500 when favored Hicham El Guerrouj (MAR) finished second behind Kenyan Noah Ngeny. Jan Železný (CZE) won his third consecutive gold medal in the javelin, adding a silver from Seoul in 1988. Derartu Tulu (ETH) won the women’s 10K, which she had also won in 1992. On the field, Heike Drechsler-Daute won a second long jump gold medal, adding to the one she had from 1992.