How Basketball played a leading role in Sydney 2000

As today, October 1, marks the final day of the 20th anniversary celebrations of the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Basketball Australia has spoken with members of the basketball community who contributed to the outstanding delivery of the Games.
Basketball Australia (BA) Hall of Famer and Life Member, Bob Elphinston OAM was appointed the General Manager for the Sydney Bid in May 1991, a role that saw him have responsibility with all sports on the Olympic Programme, and took him through two years of travel and consultation with other International Sports Federations to “sell” the Sydney 2000 Bid. Following the Bid win as announced on September 24, 1993, Elphinston would become the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) General Manager of Sport for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. “I was honoured to be SOCOG’s number one employee – an organisation that grew to 3,500 employees at Games time,” shared Elphinston. In this position, Elphinston would see the appointment of the 28 Sport Competition Managers, one of which was Lorraine Landon OAM, a former colleague of his from Bankstown Basketball. Landon, also a BA Hall of Famer, was highly praised by Elphinston for her execution of the basketball competition. “Lorraine not only managed the best ever Olympic and Paralympic basketball competitions but played a leading role in the overall sports organisation for Sydney 2000, supported by Brodie Carr, a very competent staff and hundreds of dedicated volunteers, many of whom are still active today in community basketball.” With an abundance of basketball experience in her back pocket, Landon’s role as Competition Manager for basketball across both the Olympic and Paralympic tournaments saw her work alongside technical officials, management staff and volunteers to deliver presentation of games to the highest quality. “The Dome [at Sydney Olympic Park] for the preliminary games was the best atmosphere for 10,000 people,” explains Landon. “All seating was portable and with the exciting basketball games seen each day, the athletes and teams loved the feeling of the spectators almost sitting over the top of them. “Being a part of the planning and then delivery of the basketball competition was very rewarding and most of all, I was excited to work with a new young group of passionate basketball people. Together we were able to share our dream of delivering the best basketball Olympic competition,” she shared. Landon still reflects strongly upon the lasting impact of the Sydney 2000 Paralympics which she contributed to first-hand. “Very special to me was the impact that the Paralympics had on the community in general, particularly young kids still at school. The school program that had been hugely successful in promoting the Paralympic competitions and sport created the opportunity for young kids to see athletes with a disability playing wheelchair basketball and basketball for athletes with an intellectual impairment with such skill, finesse and intensity.  “This experience changed our community’s attitude to provide opportunities for inclusion of all athletes regardless of the ability,” stated Landon. Current Basketball NSW Board Member and Life Member, David Brettell, was the Director of Volunteer and Venue Staffing for the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Brettell oversaw 62,000 volunteers throughout the two events, describing what was the “opportunity of a lifetime” for these individuals to contribute to the Games and represent Australia. “Anyone would love the idea of representing their country, most people do it through sporting activities or public service, but volunteers are doing it in the context of their ability and willingness to contribute towards something and be seen as representatives of Australia.  “The Olympics and Paralympics for the volunteers were very significant opportunities to make an unpaid contribution to the hopeful success of the Games. Some of the volunteers had been working with the organising committee for four or five years before the Games had even started,” explained Brettell. The volunteers at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games are still remembered for capturing the heart of the nation, creating a splendid legacy for the people who helped bring the events to life. An experience of humility for Brettell as he witnessed the constant dedication of those around him. “It was a very humbling experience for me because of my field of work, having previously spent a lot of time in the field of volunteering and I’ve been a volunteer myself on many occasions. But it was a humbling experience to see the enthusiasm of so many people who were willing to give up so much to help make it all work.” “I would constantly thank the volunteers for their contribution, without evening mentioning who I was, but there was a young girl, she was only around 17 or 18 and there must’ve been something which identified me and I thanked her for her contribution, and she blew me away with the comment, ‘No it’s not me that you should be thanking, it’s me that has to thank you and your team for giving me this most valuable experience’. I just remember shivers running up my spine at the thought of someone working late at night and having to wake up early the next day and thanking me for that,” recalls Brettell. Elphinston describes the 14 days of the Olympics as a proud moment for all Australians and creates a vision to remind us of how spectacular and special the time was. “Games’ time was a remarkable 14 days highlighted by a magnificent Opening Ceremony with Andrew Gaze, a remarkable Australian, leading the way as flag bearer for the largest Australian Team ever.” “Aussie crowds for the first time witnessed their national heroes playing at home in the Olympic Arena, Andrew Gaze, Luc Longley, Shane Heal, Andrew Vlahov, Lauren Jackson, Michele Timms and Robyn Maher to mention just a few,” said Elphinston. The performances of the Australian basketball teams throughout the 2000 Olympics and Paralympics set the Australian Boomers, Opals, Gliders and Rollers on a path of success in the years following the event. While Elphinston took up a role with FIBA, the International governing body of basketball. “Personally, the success of Sydney 2000 set me on a path with FIBA that took me to the highest honour of President from 2006 to 2010. An honour which I cherish every day and thank Al Ramsay for the confidence he showed in me in supporting my path in FIBA.” Elphinston will now work toward the next great basketball event to be hosted by Sydney, the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup in 2022, where he is the Deputy Co-Chair/Director, Event Services Advisory Committee on the Local Organising Committee.   Image courtesy of Getty Images.

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