Thursday 6 March is 15 years to the day the Stadium opened
More than 20 million fans have since passed through the gates
Sydney Olympic Park is now one of the world’s busiest sporting & entertainment precincts
It was 15 years ago today when Sydney partied . . . like it was 1999.
That was 6 March 1999 to be precise, when Sydney’s Olympic Stadium was unveiled for the first time in the countdown to the 2000 Summer Games.
The opening event was an NRL double-header featuring Newcastle v Manly and Parramatta v St George Illawarra – and a world-record rugby league crowd of 104,583 packed the Stadium to watch the action unfold and to experience what was then the grandest Olympic stadium ever built.
Fast forward 15 years and Stadium Australia is about to host an NRL triple-header, albeit split across a spectacular opening weekend for the code.
This Thursday night, 6 March 2014, legendary rugby league rivals the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Sydney Roosters will grace the venerated arena for an event that marks the 15th anniversary of the Stadium.
It’s the same arena that has played host to many of Australia’s greatest sporting moments. But it’s also an arena that has shifted Sydney on its axis.
For years Australia’s most populous city had been defined by its beaches, harbour, Opera House and bridge. Today, through the gravitational force of more than 1.5 million fans a year, Stadium Australia drives the city’s energy beyond the ocean fringes and to the geographical heart of Sydney. Its designated Sydney Olympic Park precinct is the gateway to Greater Western Sydney – the fastest growing region in the nation and the backbone of the city’s future.
Over the past 15 years, the Stadium has become Sydney’s Cathedral of Sport, a place where a modern community gathers to witness great events and to celebrate an occasion.
The Great Sporting Memories
Who will ever forget Cathy lighting the flame on September 15, 2000, or her 400m dash for gold 10 days later?
Where were you on that cataclysmic evening of November 15, 2005, when John Aloisi slotted home the penalty goal that qualified the Socceroos for the FIFA World Cup after a 32-year wait. Or, indeed, when a Josh Kennedy header again took the Socceroos to the World Cup, only last June.
Were you among the 107,000 voices who sang Waltzing Matilda at the Bledisoe Cup match on August 28, 1999 – or the 83,702 fans, with one half of the Stadium gold and the other red, who watched the touring British & Irish Lions take on the Wallabies last winter?
Did you see Andrew Johns return to lead the NSW Blues to an Origin series victory in 2005, or the Benji Marshall miracle flick pass to Pat Richards that sent the Wests Tigers on to NRL premiership victory later that same year? Or that Grand Final for the ages last September, when Michael Jennings soared like Superman to lift the Roosters to the title over the gallant Manly Sea Eagles?
Remember Bend It Like Beckham? When David Beckham kicked that booming goal for LA Galaxy in 2007. Or were you here to see Manchester United turn on a football masterclass in front of 83,127 fans – one of five successive sellout events at Stadium Australia in the magical sporting year that was 2013. Those events alone attracted upwards of 60,000 visitors to NSW and were worth $100 million to the NSW economy.
There have also been record AFL and international cricket crowds for Sydney, and countless memorable contests, as the Stadium continues to be the only venue in the world to host five elite sporting codes.
And the journey hasn’t only been about sport. The Stadium has hosted the biggest music acts ever witnessed in Sydney – including mighty U2 in 2007, AC/DC in 2010, Bon Jovi last December and Eminem only last month.
So many unforgettable events. Check out some of our wonderful events in pictures here
Dedicated Staff The Backbone Of The Stadium
Stadium Australia Managing Director Daryl Kerry has been lucky enough to see all the major events , having joined the Stadium in 1998 as Operations Manager nine months before construction of the Stadium was completed. He’s among a small group of core staff members who have been part of the Stadium team for its entire 15-year lifespan
“But the last 15 years have been as much Sydney’s journey as the Stadium’s journey,” says Mr Kerry.
“This Stadium was built to create history and so many of us have drawn inspiration from the drama, passion and emotion of the many sporting battles and other major events we have witnessed.
“It is a Stadium that has also grown with the demands of Sydney’s unique sporting culture, where four strong football codes battle for the minds and hearts of the fans, and it is also a Stadium that caters for everyone, regardless of status and where you live.”
Mr Kerry is one of 24 permanent staff members and 67 casual staff who have been with the Stadium since the start.
“It would be remiss of me not to thank our wonderful staff, who really do make the greatest things happen, and also our loyal Stadium Members and corporate guests – again many of whom have been with us since we opened in 1999,” he says.
“And we really need to congratulate the people of Sydney for embracing their Olympic precinct, and to assure all of them that we are working hard to bring the exciting Stadium Masterplan vision to reality, so that our Stadium remains the iconic venue it was built to be 15 years ago and stays competitive in the business of attracting major international events to Sydney.”
Last year, more than 1.6 million fans passed through the gates to witness more than 50 events at Stadium Australia. The Sydney Olympic Park precinct welcomed 13.2 million people and hosted more than 6000 events.
As we this week celebrate the Stadium’s 15th birthday, the 2014 Stadium Australia Event Calendar offers up another remarkable year of sport and entertainment. More fun and exhilaration.
We hope you continue to enjoy the ride.