Today marks the 20th anniversary of Cathy Freeman’s Sydney Olympics 400-metre win, and we spoke to Lorraine Morgan about her account of Magical Monday.
That “Magical Monday” was mind-blowing. The excitement in the crowd was electric and I could feel it from the first moment I stepped onto the Field of Play. The hairs once again stood up on the back of my neck. I had a big task to undertake – look after everyone and everything inside the Field of Play; to ensure that there were no problems and that everyone had a good time.
It was a busy night of finals and very close ones at that. In the women’s 5km, the separation between first -Greta Sabo and second Sonia O’Sullivan was minimal, then Haile Gebreselassie won the 10000m by 0.09 over Paul Tergat with them sprinting to the line having completed 25 laps. Jonathan Edwards was poetry in motion as he hopped, stepped and jumped his way to gold. The crowd excitement was building – it was getting closer to the time – the 400m.
The girls were taken from the Call Room to the start line and the crowd noise was building. When Cathy took off her tracksuit to reveal the racing suit a buzz went around. The noise when Cathy’s name was announced was deafening, but as the girls took to the blocks a hush came over the crowd and almost silence from the 110,000 strong. I was standing beyond the finish line in the tunnel near the javelin runway when the race began.
You didn’t need to watch the race, you could hear it as Cathy ran around the track. It was as if the crowd was lifting her above the ground and carrying her to the finish line. The roar as she passed the finish line was off the scale! She came towards me having taken off her hood, sat on the ground, and breathed a sigh of relief. “I’ve done it!”
I had to then protect her from the throng of photographers. She asked if she could do a Victory Lap. How could I refuse? Her family were situated near the long jump pit and Jai Taurima was “jumping out of his skin”. He had to be protected from the media pack as Cathy made her way around. I asked the Final Call Room staff to be part of the celebration by making a human chain screening off the long jump from Cathy and her throng. They loved it. These Officials could also experience the moment.
Cathy moved around the ground and back to Post Event Control. I had to prepare for Michael Johnson and his attempt to win back-to-back 400m.