Sydney 2000: Changing Community Attitudes

Sydney 2000: Changing Community Attitudes
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There is a palpable sense of excitement in ABC newsreader Angela Pearman’s opening remarks on the success of the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

This story had top billing on ABC News Sydney on 29 October 2000. Its placement as lead story speaks volumes about the pride Australians felt in our Paralympic athletes.

Reporter Paul Lockyer mentions the positive changes in community attitudes that will flow from the enormous support for the Paralympics. This was indeed the case, and the 2000 Games is today talked about as a watershed moment in the history of the Paralympics.

Athlete Heath Francis OAM says, ‘it was the most important Games for the Paralympic movement since the first Paralympic Games in 1960’. Indeed, it was only after Sydney’s sell-out success that it became mandatory for an Olympic host city to host both Games.

The story illustrates how Paralympic athletes particularly captured the hearts of schoolchildren. Schools attended on government subsidised excursions after being involved in a pen pal program with athletes established by organisers – contributing to a dedicated generation of fans.

Indeed, in his wrap-up of the Sydney 2000 Paralympics closing ceremony, Sydney Morning Herald reporter Anthony Dennis wrote, 'If the Olympics elevated the spirits, it was the Paralympics that touched the soul'.

Looking back on the Games 20 years later, athlete Tim Matthews OAM says the crowds ‘might have been going with good intentions – "I need to support our poor disabled athletes". They came back because it was really good sport. We don't want to be cheered just because we're there. A pat on the head because we're alive and that's the main thing. We want our performances recognised.’

Footage of wheelchair racing and swimming is used effectively in this clip to build atmosphere and a sense of the awesome achievements of the athletes.

Sydney 2000 Paralympics Queen of Pool Siobhan Paton, who won a staggering 6 gold medals, also appears in the story. Slow-motion footage of one of her wins is paired beautifully with a short grab of her talking about the contributions of people with intellectual disabilities in society.

Almighty athlete Louise Sauvage – one of Australia’s most famous athletes of all time – also features, talking about how high Sydney has set the bar for Athens who will go on to host the 2004 Paralympics.

Notes by Beth Taylor