Olympians of the new millenium

Australians are passionate about their sport. It is part of the Australian character. Be it on a sporting field or in a woolshed shearing sheep, whenever two or more Australians get together, the sporting spirit comes alive and competition ensues. And no matter what colour, creed, race or country of origin, when a group of Australians team up on the same side, they are truly united. Sport reaches beyond blind patriotism, and unites one of the most culturally diverse populations in the world. This, above all else, is what makes an Australian an Australian.

Australian sportsmen and women have excelled in virtually every international sport, both at home and in the international arena. An ardent supporter of the Olympic movement, Australia is one of just five countries in the world, (along with Greece, Great Britain, France and Switzerland), to have been represented at every summer Olympic Games held since Baron de Coubertin revived the Olympic Games in 1896. Since the inaugural event in Athens, where Australian runner Edwin Flack won two gold medals the 800m and the 1,500m, Australians have won a total of 225 Olympic medals in a wide range of sports.

It is therefore particularly appropriate that Sydney was selected to host the Olympic Games in the year 2000, when in celebration of the beginning of a new millennium, the world's finest sportsmen and women will converge on Sydney to compete. Being awarded the honour of hosting the 2000 Olympic Games was more than a victory over other contenders. In Sydney and around the nation, tens of thousands of people gathered in the early hours of the morning of 24 September 1993 to await the verdict of the International Olympic Committee. Joy and excitement swept over the entire country, from the cities to the outback, in scenes reminiscent of the bicentenary celebrations in 1988. The stock market rose, the currency strengthened, and for a while the tough times were cast aside. It was almost as if the Olympics would be a magic wand, to boost the economy and generate some much needed confidence to take the nation out of recession.

Not surprisingly, many important sporting innovations have been spawned in Australia over the years. Many involved the development of new techniques. In swimming, for example, the overarm sidestroke, the Australian crawl (which became known as freestyle), and the butterfly were developed in Australia. The crouched start in athletics was conceived by Australian sprinter Bobby McDonald in 1884, prior to which runners started a race standing upright.

While the human body has yet to reach its limits, natural talent and true grit are no longer enough. It is science and technology that will keep sports records tumbling in the future. And while innovation in sport has largely resulted from the individual and team endeavours of competitors, there have also been a number of technological innovations in sport. One example is race cam, the tiny cameras used universally in action sport broadcasting, that have changed and enhanced the way sport is watched by millions of people around the world. Other innovations have included the development of high performance sports equipment, safer crash barriers and the advent of custom made prescription mouthguards.

And if sport is an integral part of the Australian lifestyle, the pursuit of leisure is its code of life. In the so called 'lucky country', most people work to live, not live to work. Leisure, camaraderie and recreation are the primary qualitative measures of individual success the acquisition of financial wealth for most being a means to an end, rather than a achievement in itself. It is interesting to note that there are more barbecues, swimming pools and boats per head of population in Australia, than anywhere else in the world. Leisure in Australia starts with the ubiquitous barbecue get together, and extends through to the wide appreciation and participation in the arts in its many forms. There exists a proliferation of talent in cinematography, acting, opera, ballet, theatre, music, painting and sculpture. And besides participation in sports, hobbies and outdoor leisure activities range from DIY home improvements and gardening, to home crafts like wood working.

Australia's contributions to innovation in sport and leisure are far too many to be all mentioned here. We have therefore selected a number of world first and world best products and technologies of international significance, over a range of sport and leisure activities, in an endeavour to illustrate the wide diversity of products and technologies the nation has to offer.

World first products and technologies in sports and recreation

Public Notice: Due to an unresolved dispute with the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade), who copied and adopted as their own certain material from Tomorrow's World, the Australian Initiative, and published the material in their Australia Open for Business website, without remorse or recompense, access by Australian Government servers to this online edition has been blocked indefinitely.

Print Edition: ISBN 0646252119 - Paperback - 224 pages - 350 illustrations - $55.00 incl. GST.

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