Sydney Games Closing Ceremony

But, mindful of the tourism dollar, it also recognizes that pop-culture images still sell — and sell well.

Thus the closing featured the Men at Work song “Land Down Under.” It featured the rubber thong, “Australia’s beach footwear of choice.” It featured a tune any Olympic visitor cannot fail to recognize — the unofficial national anthem, “Waltzing Matilda.”

The verdict was certain and confident: Australia has successfully introduced itself to the world.

“All Australians are entitled to feel proud of our athletes, our country and ourselves, and what our nation has achieved during this period,” Olympics minister Michael Knight said.

Athletic Feats …

As with any Olympics, the 2000 Summer Games offered a dizzying selection of memorable moments to take home — and some that everyone wishes they could forget.

From the pool to the track, the baseball field to the wrestling ring, athletes made the marks of a lifetime.

It was the Olympics of the Thorpedo. Of Cathy Freeman, the aboriginal sprinter who shouldered a nation’s racial burden. Of Eric Moussambani, the swimmer from Equatorial Guinea who barely finished and captured the imagination of an underdog-friendly world.

It was an Olympics of whooshes — Ian Thorpe and Susie O’Neill and Jenny Thompson and Inge de Bruijn whooshing through the water. Marion Jones and Maurice Greene whooshing along the track. Stacy Dragila and Tatiana Grigorieva whooshing over the bar and claiming their spots in pole-vaulting history.

It was an Olympics of surprises and unexpected twists: the U.S. softball team rallying for gold after a series of stunning losses; American wrestler Rulon Gardner defeating the most formidable foe of all, Russian Alexander Karelin; the U.S. men’s basketball team nearly falling to Lithuania; Lance Armstrong losing the 33-mile time trial to his close friend Viacheslav Ekimov of Russia.

It was an Olympics of firsts, especially for women. Trampoline and taekwondo and synchronized diving made their debuts, as did women’s pole vault, women’s water polo and women’s weightlifting.

… and Doping

And it was the Olympics of doping and cheating, showcased as never before thanks to more stringent IOC testing policies and punishments. Positive tests claimed five medals, including a gold captured by Andreea Raducan, the little Romanian girl whose doctor prescribed cold medicine that turned out to be banned.

During the Olympics themselves, athletes underwent about 3,600 tests — more than in any previous games. Less than 0.5 percent tested positive; officials say that percentage is declining.

“It shows that athletes are more frightened, and that the testing is improved,” said Jacques Rogge, vice chairman of the IOC Medical Commission.

Final Games for Samaranch

These were the final games for Samaranch, whose wife died hours after the opening ceremony. He went back to Spain to bury her and returned a day later. He has praised the Sydney games throughout.

He said the games “could not have been better.”

“I am proud and happy to proclaim that you have presented to the world the best Olympic Games ever,” Samaranch said. He has applied that moniker to games in the past; a notable exception was Atlanta, which he called simply “most exceptional.”

Others were just as enthusiastic. “There’s an almost magical feel in Sydney at the moment,” said Australian Olympics minister Michael Knight. “The Australian people have embraced these games.”

And 2004? Despite a slow start, Athens got an endorsement today from the IOC, whose director-general said there is “no Plan B.” Some speculated the next Summer Games might return here if Greece wasn’t properly prepared.

“I know that Greece lost time,” said Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, who helped secure Athens’ bid and was re-enlisted anew as head of the organizing committee.

“But whatever it will need,” she said, “we will do it.”

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