When the biggest show on Earth, the Olympics, came to town, it settled in western Sydney, and if anything Olympic Park today is “faster … higher … stronger”. It still hosts the city’s busiest sporting and concert venues, and it’s in the largest that we’re going not only backstage but above-stage.
The Gantry Tour of ANZ Stadium is no Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, to be sure, but you’re still 45m above the playing surface on walkways which, attached to the support structure that holds up the Akubra-shaped roof, gives a feeling of being inside the skeleton of a dinosaur. It’s a complicated process putting on a major sporting fixture, so if you want to get the minutiae along with the bird’s-eye view (and you’ve over the age of 12), check it out.
Back down on the concourse outside the stadium, it’s fun to walk among the forest of artist-designed poles bearing the names of the 74,000 Australians who volunteered at the 2000 Games. Also listed are some unexpected Olympic venues, including Tel Aviv, New York, Ornskoldsvik (Sweden) and Arnhem (Holland, not Land) – they hosted the Paralympics before that event synched with the main Olympics in 1988.
If you want more of the Olympic spirit, get into it. You can do that funny heel/toe walk along the boulevards named after Australian athletes, hire a bike in Bicentennial Park and do a Cadell along the paths through the mangroves up to the river, or take aim with a beginner’s session at the Archery Centre
Luckily for us, our hotel – the excellent Pullman Sydney Olympic Park – doesn’t have a pool. Instead, house guests get free entry to the Olympic pool across the road, and while the atmosphere isn’t the same without thousands of screaming Aussies urging Thorpey on, it’s great for an end-of-day swim, spa soak and sauna. And we thought the sauna was hot – until we took a friend’s advice and tried Rams, a Sri Lankan takeaway place tucked down an arcade in nearby Henley Rd, Homebush West. Mutton curry with rice, and vegetables with naan – this is the sort of food for which very cold beer was invented. Magnificent.