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Barb's Olympic Adventure Continues
Posting 12: The closing ceremony and farewell to Australia!

Curriculum CenterBarbara Taddeo is at the Olympic Games -- and she is sharing the experience with Education World readers! Taddeo, a middle school special education teacher from San Mateo, California, will share her observations -- and some activities too. Follow Taddeo's journey through her reports from Sydney!


If you have questions or comments for Barbara Taddeo, visit the Education World message board.

October 2, 2000

As I write this last chapter to my very exciting month in Australia, I bid the Olympics and this wonderful country a fond farewell. I am flying across the Pacific Ocean with my didjeridoo (a long wooden tube used by the Aborigines that gives a low-pitched resonant sound) and dreamtime books safely packed in my luggage.

It is with sadness I am leaving new friends and old friends behind. If it were not for their help and daily input, I could have never completed this assignment. I had the privilege of working with a very intelligent, enthusiastic staff of people from Australia and many other parts of the world. We all came together as one to bring the Olympics to the world.

Yes, I learned to yell "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi" along with singing the beautiful Australian national anthem. Australians have great national pride in their country. Like the United States, they have that "can do" attitude and are willing to volunteer at anytime. They are a progressive country, as symbolized by the kangaroo and emu, which appear as their national symbols because these animals can only move forward. Such are the people of Australia.

Australians take national pride in their athletes. They consider them "family" almost. Today as I was leaving, there was another ticker tape parade downtown for them. An estimated 200,000 people lined the streets to honor the athletes.

Then, on Thursday (October 5), when I am back teaching my own class in San Mateo, California, there will be a ticker tape parade in Sydney for all of the volunteers who gave their time and effort during the Games. The volunteers came from every profession you could think of. Many companies paid their regular employees their regular salary to help, but many others did not. In the venue where I worked, many of the volunteers were teachers.

During the Olympics, Australia closed its schools for three weeks so the students could enjoy the Games! School resumed for students today.

The people I worked with learned to laugh at my funny interpretation of some of their sayings and I have begun to incorporate some of their sayings into my everyday speech; for example, queuing up (lining up), ticks (checks, as on a checklist), and no worries (said after someone does something for you and you say thanks in return).

In Australia, a cell phone is called a mobile, with the emphasis on the bile. Yes, cell phones are everywhere here and it seems everyone has one! It was not unusual to hear phones ringing on commuter trains and in the middle of competitions. There were many announcements during the Games telling people to turn off their cell phones. Still, most people who had cell phones kept them on.

AUSTRALIAN HOLIDAYS

For this last report, I asked my fellow Australian workers what they wanted me to report on besides the Games. A vote was taken and they wanted me to tell you about their holidays.

October 2nd was Labor Day in Australia. Like the United States, Labor Day is a national holiday; most workers have the day off. Small stores are closed, but shopping malls are open. In Australia, shopping malls close at 4 p.m. on holidays; that's unlike many malls in the United States, which stay open later.

Christmas in the land down under is in the middle of summer. When I left, stores were putting up Christmas decorations, complete with Santa and fake snow. Most Australians open their presents on Christmas morning as we do, but instead of turkey for dinner they usually have a barbecue with their families.

December 26, the day after Christmas, is called Boxing Day. This holiday dates back to England when wealthy families had servants. Most servants had to work on Christmas, so the families gave them December 26th off. As a gift, the servants got a box with money in it, thus the name Boxing Day. In Sydney, there is a boat race on that day. The race starts in Sydney Harbor.

The next holiday is January 1, New Year's Day, which Australia celebrates basically the same way many other countries do. Following New Year's Day is Australia Day, celebrated on January 26; this holiday marks the day of the first European settlement in Sydney Harbor. The holiday was originally called Empire Day, but in 1948 the name was changed to Commonwealth Day. Then, in 1959, it was changed to Australia Day.

April 25 is ANZAC Day. The letters in ANZAC stand for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. In World War I, thousands of ANZAC troops were killed during battles in Turkey. ANZAC Day is similar to Veterans Day, which the United States celebrates in November. Other Holidays include Good Friday, Easter Monday, and the Queen's Birthday, which is celebrated on the second Monday in June, just as it is celebrated in Britain.

CLOSING CEREMONY

After the last medal ceremony at the Horse Park, I made my way down to the middle of the city via the train. I boarded a boat so I could watch the fireworks from the middle of the harbor -- just as I had promised myself I would four years ago. The crowds were massive and crushing, wall-to-wall people. It took me 30 minutes to make my way along the Wharf, which normally is a 5-minute walk. For those of us who had tickets for the boats, we had the some of the best seats in the house for this very historic event!

The closing ceremony of the Olympics was broadcast throughout the city on large screen televisions. Our boat passed the Opera House, which was aglow with a laser light show on its massive domes. It was beautiful! The excitement in the city was electric.

Along with thousands of small boats, the large boat I was on made its way to the middle of the harbor. Two hundred people were crowded onto the boat, and we all maneuvered for the best viewing position. All day long we had trouble at the Horse Park with the wind. The wind continued into the evening, so it was very cold on the boat. But we brave souls endured the cold to enjoy the excitement!

The captain of the boat positioned us between the bridge and one of the barges from which the fireworks were to be set off. We had a view of the entire city from our vantage point. We were a little farther away from the bridge than I would have liked, but because of the size of our boat we were restricted to that particular area. The smaller family boats could get closer.

As the flame in the stadium was being extinguished, a jet with its afterburners aglow carried the flame off as a symbolic gesture. It was another hour before the second jet appeared in the sky with its afterburners aglow also. This was the signal that the fireworks, or "river of fire" as it was called, were on the way. We could see the barges up river being lit and fireworks appeared in the sky. Then the fireworks on the barge nearest us and on the bridge were set off at the same time.

You might have heard that five major fireworks companies representing the continents of the five rings in the Olympic flag (Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Australia) donated fireworks for this celebration. In a way, it was a competition to see who could outdo the others, who could make their presentation the most spectacular one.

Five separate firework shows went off one right after another. You didn't know where to turn. The one barge closest to us lit up our boat and the night sky in brilliant colors in ways to difficult to describe. Think of the biggest fireworks display you have gone to in your life and times that by five. That is what I experienced that night! As the night sky was ablaze I thought of our own national anthem by Francis Scott Key and the line, "and the rockets' red glare." The rockets' red glare was everywhere!

The last continent to make its presentation was Australia. When it was their turn, many of the buildings downtown were part of the fireworks display. Fireworks were ignited from building rooftops, and the bridge became a fountain of fire. Fireworks were even shot off in the shape and colors of the Olympic rings. Fireworks came cascading off of the bridge in a waterfall effect; they also arched from the top from one side to the next. It was truly amazing!

I am so glad I was there for this historic event and not at home watching it on television!

As the entire bridge was ablaze with the fireworks, the Olympic rings on the bridge were ignited. That signaled the end of the Olympics and the end of the fireworks. It did not, however, end the celebration. The party in the city continued till dawn with music and dancing in several locations. The Australians sure know how to party!

Except for the short presentation by Greece at the end of the closing ceremony, this was truly an Australian party.

The ocean and water played a big part of Sydney Games. That is why the Olympic shirt I wore had the look of an ocean. But that wavy line that some people thought was a wave was actually the outline of the Opera House. The same designer who made the uniforms for the Australian Olympic team designed the shirt. He also designed many of the costumes for the closing ceremony. That is why they were wild and crazy looking.

All of the singers and bands in the closing ceremony were Australian also. The Australians pulled out all of the stops and even had Greg Norman the golfer and Paul Hogan of Crocodile Dundee fame. It was a great closing ceremony to watch!

As I said before, this was a truly memorable trip -- one I will remember the rest of my life. Australia and the friends I have made will always hold a special place in my heart. Will I see some of them again? You bet! We have planned to work together at the Games in Athens in four years. I will also be working at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Being part of the Olympics Games is truly an amazing experience. To think that so many different people with so many different backgrounds and cultures can come together for this extraordinary event and work together under one common flag is just incredible. As I return to my seventh grade class, I plan to carry that Olympic spirit into my classroom. I want to instill that "can do" attitude in my students in hope that, as they grow older, they too can be caught up in the Olympic spirit.

***EDITOR'S NOTE

The Education World staff wishes to thank Barbara Taddeo for sharing her experiences at the 2000 Summer Olympics Games with our readers. Taddeo hopes that everyone who followed her journey learned new information about Australia and gained a greater understanding of the continent. "I truly love the country," said Taddeo in a follow-up message to Education World.

Taddeo is back home -- and back in the classroom. "I started grad school and teaching the day after I walked off the flight," she said. Taddeo said her students "enjoyed the postings" and "felt part of the Games."

"When I returned, they brought me newspaper clippings and other items they had collected," said Taddeo. "I, in turn, brought them 30 rolls of pictures, posters, CDs, and books to enjoy."

Taddeo eagerly looks forward to the next Olympic Games. "I am an adventurer," she said.

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Barbara Taddeo
Education World®
Copyright © 2000 Education World

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