2000 Sydney Olympics: Cathy Freeman

The opening ceremony of the 2000 Summer Olympic Games took place on Friday, 15 September 2000, at Stadium Australia. The Games were formally opened by Governor-General Sir William Deane. The ceremony was described by IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch as the most beautiful ceremony the world has ever seen.The Olympic Flame was central to the 10 October 2000 stamp, which depicted the powerful moment during the Opening Ceremony when a silver-suited Cathy Freeman held the Olympic Torch aloft, ready to light the cauldron that was suspended above her head.

The above sheet is the first reprint signified by the One Koala at the right bottom corner (circled).

Ten days latter on the 25 September, in the same stadium, with the weight of the whole countries’ expectations resting on her shoulders she had to run in the 400 metre final. She was dressed in a green and gold body suit with a her head covered by a hood. The final was watched by more than 112,000 people inside the stadium, and by half of Australia on television. Freeman started cautiously and then pulled away on the back straight to win by nearly half a second. Jubilant and suddenly overwhelmed, Freeman sank to the track and simply sat there for two minutes as the crowd cheered jubilantly. She completed a lap of honour carrying both the Australian and Aboriginal flags.

In 2000, Australia Post produced instant gold medalist stamps for the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympic Games. This was not only a first for Australia, but also globally. In a nutshell, photographs of the Australian Gold Medalists, taken during the medal presentation ceremony, were sent electronically to the design team and researchers for placement and captioning within a pre-designed and pre-approved template. Finalised designs were then sent electronically to printing staff in each capital city. The designs were digitally printed on specially produced pre-perforated paper to produce sheetlets of 10 stamps. The stamps were available to the public at 67 Post Offices around the country by noon the next day. This was an incredible feat in logistics and production as well as a departure from standard stamp printing processes.

Further supplies of the stamps, also in sheetlets of 10, were printed using offset lithography and made available within days of the medal ceremony. This is the format that continues to this day.

Each sheet had an individual animal totem for each Capital City where the sheet was digitally printed. The offset stamps had a map of Australia. Stamps for Tasmania and the Northern Territory were printed in Victoria and South Australia respectively. Interestingly the totems only loosely matched the official animal emblems for the states and territories.

Above is the Offset imprint images with the map of Australia. The 1 Koala means there has been 1 reprint issues. The third sheet has been printed in South Australia digitally as indicated by the kangaroo symbol. The fourth sheet has been printed in NSW digitally as indicated by the platypus symbol. Note that the digitally cut sheet are not as precise as the offset sheets.

The fifth sheet is a double sheet where the two sheets have not been separated.

A composite collection of all the medal winners along with the lighting of the Olympic flame was issued as part of the 2000 Australian Stamp Collection.

Australia Post did not release any official First Day Covers but many collectors produced their own.

On the 5 November 2003 Australia Post released an A4 Souvenir Sheet entitled “Cathy Freeman: A Tribute”.

The last three stamps in the selvedge, show Freeman winning the 400 metres in Stadium Australia dressed in her Green and Gold body suit, lighting the flame at the opening ceremony and the presentation of her Gold Medal at the Medal’s Ceremony.

The Republic of Guinea issued two miniature sheets in 2007-2008 to celebrate the Sydney Olympics. The initial sheet (above left) shows Freeman portrayed on a stamp looking to the left with Stadium Australia and running in her bodysuit in the background. In the background is Marion Jones who was stripped of her 5 medals due to using banned substances. The right sheet shows her portrayed in a stamp facing right with Stadium Australia, her bodysuit and the Olympic emblem in the background. This stamp was also issued in a sheetlet. The background of the minisheet shows her climbing the stairs to light the Olympic flame.

Both Kalmykia and Udmurtia are Russian Republics. There stamps are likely to be illegal issues under the the Universal Postal Union decrees.

The postal administration of the RUSSIAN FEDERATION wrote the following letter:

”As a member of the Universal Postal Union, the postal administration of the Russian Federation issues postage stamps in accordance with the provisions of the Universal Postal Convention and the Letter Post Regulations.

“However, there has recently appeared on world philatelic markets a large number of illicit stamp issues distributed on behalf of official territorial entities of the Russian Federation. These issues feature ‘fashionable’ subjects such as political figures, sports celebrities, Hollywood movie stars, etc.

“The postal administration of the Russian Federation draws your attention to the fact that the regions on whose behalf these stamps have been issued form an integral part of the Russian Federation and that, according to the provisions of the UPU Regulations and Russian Federation legislation, they are not authorized to issue postage stamps independently (the list of these regions appears in the annex). All stamps issued on behalf of official territorial entities of the Russian Federation must therefore be regarded as illegal. They have no connection with the Post and cannot be used as an official means of indicating prepayment of postage.

“These forged stamps are being issued by anonymous private companies operating outside Russia and have no direct connection with the official territorial entities of the Russian Federation.

“The distribution of illegal postage stamps does serious moral and economic harm to the Russian Federation, discredits the Russian postal service in the eyes of the world philatelic community and encourages collectors to avoid buying not only illegal but also perfectly legal stamp issues.”