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Melbourne 2020 Games Report

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Melbourne 2020 Summer Games Report

The anticipation was surreal, the Games had returned to Melbourne, the third time on Australian soil. From the outset of the Games very first morning, the streets of Melbourne’s central districts buzzed. A public holiday had been declared for this Wednesday in March, the beginning of a new chapter in the cities rich sporting culture. Throughout the day, thousands took to the beaches of Melbourne for relaxation, a clam before the events of the night. As the sun set over the horizon, over 300,000people lined to banks of the Yarra from Melbourne Park to Docklands and over 100,000 guests were ushered into the hollowing coliseum on the Melbourne Cricket Ground. With the new Great Southern Stand going through finishing touches just days before the ceremony, the seating capacity of the ground was now at a staggering 105,000.

The night proved fortunate. A flourish of colour and Australian culture featuring the Great Ocean Road, the Forests of Victoria and the Gold Rushes of the 1880s. The ceremony began with a dedication to sport in the city, distinguished mainly by Australian Rules Football, the essence of sport in the Victorian capital. It finished with a flame lighting ceremony by 2000 hero Ian Thorpe, who was handed the baton by a procession that included Andrew Gaze (Basketball), John Landy (Athletics) and Ron Clarke (Athletics), some of Melbourne’s most influential athletes. Much uproar came when Thorpe lit the cauldron, many knowing he was traditionally not a Melbournian. The night was a success and a welcoming introduction for the 16 days of competition that lay ahead.

The very first day saw large crowds in a new programme devised particularly for the Melbourne Games. Over 20,000 consistently packed the Telstra Dome Aquatic Centre to see Australia once again battle it out for the bragging rights in the Pool. Capacity crowds were also seen at the first days Handball competition and all across Melbourne Park, particularly in the Gymnastics competition.

A procession of hot air balloons hovered over Melbourne for the first day and evening displaying messages of Olympism and literally colouring the skies above the city. The Myer Music Bowl saw a free concert on the first night while the many parklands around the city were filled wit circus, art displays, drama performances and several musical acts.

Day 2 saw the beginning of competition at Werribee Park, a historical site west of Melbourne. The historical and significant Werribee Castle provided the perfect backdrop for Equestrian and Archery competition set in some of the most natural, yet spectacular settings seen in Olympic history. The baseball competition at the Melbourne ball park was also underway with Japan and Australia eventually going on to take out the competition with Gold and Silver respectively.

Day 3 was to be a “stage setting” day for events to come. Action on the basketball court heated up when the US suffered an embarrassing defeat to a gallant Chinese. It would also be the first day Boxing competition which began at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. Badminton and Table Tennis also saw a capacity crowd for its first days competition and the Lexus Centre

Day 4 was to be the biggest day in Olympic history. A Sunday for Melbourne and cheap tickets on offer at all venues. This momentums Sunday was the first day of Athletics and Cycling competition, a day of many Swimming and Gymnastics finals and the first time the Australian Olympic Soccer team had played in Melbourne. A capacity crowd roared all day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the first day of competition. Over 30,000 packed the Aquatic Centre for the swimming finals and saw a gold rush by Australia and the Germany in the pool. 25,000 filled the Olympic Park Stadium to see the host nation down traditional home Greece 2-1 and 5 other venues (including Rowing) recorded capacity crowds, with over 500,000 tickets sold for this day alone. By the end of Day 4, China and Japan sat a top of the medal tally, Germany and the US battling in out for a top 3 position.

Day 5, 6 and 7 saw the UK dominate the rowing processions while the Asian nations seeped all medals in Badminton and Table Tennis. The fencing competition concluded with Italy and Spain adding medals to their dwindling tallies, while Brazil knocked out the US favourites in the beach Volleyball competition.

Day 8, 9, 10 saw the end of the Tennis competition, Argentina dominating processions. The velodrome closed its doors too with Australia and New Zealand sweeping almost all the medals on offer. The Judo, Taekwondo and Wrestling medals were a mix of opportunity, with a disappointing crowd filling the Vodafone Arena. Volleyball and Handball also made its debut at the Telstra Dome Indoor Arena with the beginning of the finals stages.

Day 11 saw the beginning of the Sailing competition at St Kilda, as well as the men’s and women’s triathlon. A Commonwealth double with New Zealand dominating the woman’s division and Australia taking out the men’s in the triathlon. The walking events were dominated by China while the road cycling again belonged to the Germans, French and Americans. Canada, Russia, China and Malaysia dominated the diving events at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre.

Day 12 was a special one for the host nation, with Australia qualifying for the final of the men’s and women’s Water Polo, Semi finals of the Football and Basketball (Both Men and Women). With memories of the 1956 Water Polo finals still with some commentators, Australia downed the Bulgarian opponents in the Women’s divisions, though was embarrassed by and impressive Chinese outfit in the final. The host nation was also blown away by an outstanding Spanish side in the football, though overcome US opponents for the first time to reach the basketball final (women’s).

Day 13 saw the end of Volleyball competition which was eventually won by Brazil and the United States. An improving German side shocked many finishing 4th will an even more impressive Portuguese side finished 3rd.

Day 14 ended much competition in Melbourne 2020. Australia took out the Women’s Basketball for the first time, likewise China a shock victor in the men’s. Canada sweepd the remaining Diving medals will Russia saw heartbreak, then success in synchronised swimming where a judging decision was reversed to give them the gold in the team event. The athletics programme concluded early in the morning with the final decathlon event before the men’s and women’s football final, won by Spain and the US respectively.

Day 15 was to be the final day of major competition for Melbourne 2020 with the baseball and softball programmes finishing as well as the much anticipated Beach Volleyball final. Coming down to the wire, Australia (women’s) and Argentina (men’s) defeated both Brazilian teams in the final, a shock to most, but a replication of Sydney 2000.

Day 16 saw the last event on the Olympic calendar, the marathon, which entered a 105,000strong MCG crowd to start the closing ceremony. Welcoming a procession of athletes from all nations bearing gold, silver or camera’s the MCG pitch was soon filled with a world community, a flourish of colour and culture made up of a 14,500strong athlete body. The Games where then closed by the IOC president and an almighty roar met the speech of Justin Maddin, minister for the 2020 Olympic Games. Shortly after the MCG erupted into a secession of fireworks, lighting while images of a colour of fireworks and people shining the entire length of the Yarra River we broadcast into the stadium. Shortly after a presentation delivered by the Guatemalan City Olympic Team dazzled the massive Melbourne crowd. Images of a 1km wide Melbourne 2020 logo distinguished by lighting position on Port Phillip Bay, making the city look like a tiny light on the horizon were broadcast into the stadium. The night finished with Ron Barassi, “kicking” an Australian Rules Football through perfectly positioned goals to extinguish the flame. Unfortunately, to the astonishment of many in the stadium, a small bomb had exploded in Spencer Steer Station during the closing ceremony killing 2 people.

For the first time in many years, the US did not finish on top of the medal tally. China topped the tally taking out almost one quarter of available medals, followed by the US, Japan and host nation Australia. New Zealand took a personal record haul of gold, as did Canada setting a good precedent for future Games.

The Melbourne 2020 Games set a record for ticket sales and ticket numbers (over 10million after a prediction of just 6million available tickets).

8years in the making, a record number of athletes and a substantial return saw the Melbourne Games prove sustainable, world class, though not necessarily secure. A enormous contribution to the story of the Victorian Capital.

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