It was everywhere. You walked down the street, and strangers would stop you and, holding one of the many ridiculous novelty items that were around and would tell you just what a wonderful and fantastic time they had at the Stadium. How great it was to see Australia doing so well. That pretty much only applied for the swimming, at least as far as I could figure out. Or Cathy Freeman, a runner. If Cathy Freeman or a swimmer won (and if that swimmer was Ian Thorpe), it was as if Australia had suddenly found the cure for cancer, and the world had just stopped in mid spin, in mid meal, in mid shit, and in one long collective voice said, "Shit, they cured fucking cancer."
It was a bad time for the people who had no interest in the Olympic Games.
I think decent people in Sydney considered rounding us up, and dumping us in detention camps. There was probably a memo about it, and about people like me, who were going around and ruining the ambiance. It felt like I'd rocked up to a dinner with the Queen and begun the dinner conversation with, "What useful purpose do you have?" After the coughing and spluttering and the avoidance of the fact that swimming very fast serves no purpose whatsoever I would be pointedly ignored for the rest of the evening. Later, I would find little black vans sent by the Queen circling my place, until, at three in the morning, the doors were kicked open, and armed Agents of the Government came in, stole me, and dumped me in a pool full of flesh eating creatures to demonstrate to me just how swimming fast is actually very important.
I imagine that the Queen would laugh and poke at her assorted meats as I was ripped and torn and devoured before her cold and faded gaze.
It was, in case you haven't figured, a difficult time for me during the 2000 Olympic Games. Lots of arguments, a breakup, that thing with the Queen, and watching Sydney get branded with the World City logo on it that would ensure that the following years would see it expand to the point where it was bursting with flesh and houses and automobiles and pollution and money. The old Sydney was swept away (it was, in fact, swept away in the years leading up to the Olympics) and what was left in its place was a shiny simulacra.
It was that shiny thing that birthed the Olympics and the alien city I was forced to live in during 2000.
But not in 2004.
The Games are not here. They're happening in another city, in another time zone, and with the exception of a few notices bleeding into the edges of my daily information stream, I'm free of it.