2000 Sydney Olympics: The Torch Relay

The Olympic Flame was lit on 4th May 2000 in a special ceremony in Greece on Mt Olympia by using a parabolic mirror to focus the sun’s rays to light the torch. It was then carried by runners for 10 days to Athens where it was put on a special plane for its trip to Guam and then a dozen Pacific Countries. It arrived in Australia at Uluru on the 8th June 2000. The flame was then handed to the traditional owners and the first athlete to carry the flame was Nova Peris-Kneebone. She would be the first of 10,000 runners that carried the flame 27,000 kilometres over 100 days through 1000 different towns. The seventh runner was Adelaide’s Andrew McLeod.

Torch relays tend to be popular among philatelists as they are so diverse and permit  the collection of vast amounts of philatelic information, in particular the postmarks of the various cities, towns and suburbs. First Class Collectables issued multiple covers to coincide with relay. Three of these featured former or present AFL footballers.

Ron Barassi carried the torch to Steve Bracks, the premier of Victoria, who gave it to Ron Clarke to re-enact the lighting of the Olympic Flame from 1956. This was before a 75,000 strong football crowd at the MCG.

Other footballers shown on covers in the series were Malcolm Blight and Bobby Skilton. Paul Kelly and Wayne Carey were also featured on the Wagga Cover. The Blight cover shows the Torch relay postmark for Melbourne with the date 31st July 2000. The set of nine postmarks (six states and two territories, with another PM for the Northern territory as the Torch made two visits) were actually not issued until the 12 September 2000. They were all of similar design. Several other footballers were involved in the relay, some because of their football skills while other were involved because of their association with channel Seven, the games telecaster. Doug Hawkins ran a section in Tasmania, Gavin Wanganeen in Adelaide, Leigh Matthews in Brisbane and Tony Lockett from Campletown Sports Stadium. Dermott Brertton was also involved. Not all runners were elite athletes, Wally Linke, in SA had been involved in the running of the Nuriootpa Tigers FC for 60 of his 85 years.