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Monday, 30 October 2000
Page: 21581

Mr BEAZLEY (Leader of the Opposition) (2:06 PM)

My dear friends of Sydney and Australia, it is an honour and privilege to hereby announce to you and the world that the Paralympic Summer Games Sydney 2000 were indeed the best ever. You have completed a perfect festival of sport and friendship. What a way to start the 21st century and, make no mistake about it, Australians, it was accomplished by you.

The Acting Prime Minister has already mentioned the crowds that attended. I must say that, for those like me and I think many members here who managed to get along to a few of the events on some of the days, that was the overwhelming impression that struck you so unexpectedly. To stand on Olympic Boulevard the weekend before last and watch thousands of people moving between venues, enjoying the atmosphere and lining up in their serried ranks for autographs of the athletes, you could not but be impressed by the fact that the people of Australia took these games enormously to heart.

I do not make this by way of invidious comparison at all, but the other thing that struck me about the crowds was how much they were reflective of the average Australian in the areas where the games took place. As I attended the Olympics, I met many from the United States, many from across the water in New Zealand, many from the UK and many from Europe. As I stood on Olympic Boulevard during the Paralympics, I met Westies and I met people from Wollongong and people from Newcastle. It was a great parade of average Australia coming to pay homage to the competition and to enjoy the facilities—and enjoy it they did enormously. Right from the second day, as I watched at the basketball, the kids started to build up huge crowds. They did obtain record crowds for a whole variety of Olympic sports, including basketball. The passion of those children as they came in huge numbers to enjoy the spectacle and to enjoy the opportunity would have gladdened the heart of any Australian parent.

The athletes were inspired. All of us who watched these folk perform contemplated the difficulties they have overcome in their lives to get themselves to the status of elite athletes. How did they do it? We find them awesome. We find their achievement awesome. But when you go into the village, as I know the village's able mayor did—of course he lived there—and meet the athletes, you do not find people conscious of awesome achievement. What you find are elite athletes with elite athletes' preoccupations. Have I been properly classified? Will I achieve my personal best? Will I medal? What is the status of the competition in which I am engaged? These are the sorts of things that apply to any athlete, and of course it reflects their longstanding struggle to achieve that status for themselves. Having achieved that status, they are no different from any other elite athlete in their preoccupations.

The games have produced new heroes. I should obviously mention one or two of them. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but all of us must have been moved by Siobhan Paton and the fact that she achieved six gold medals and eight world records. Tim Sullivan from Victoria won five gold medals. Neil Fuller from South Australia won four. Lisa Llorens won three, Lisa McIntosh won three, and Heath Francis and Greg Smith won three gold medals. Louise Sauvage won two gold medals and gave a marvellously sportsmanlike performance in relation to the loss of a third gold and the achievement of a silver medal in the 800 metres. All of those heroes whom we have come to identify with Paralympic sports were there, and a whole lot of new ones in addition. They all achieved marvellously for themselves, for their sport and for an understanding of the possibilities that there are to lead great lives and to achieve that status for those who have had the most awesome impediments placed in front of them. We have been privileged to be their hosts and to be witness to this.

I particularly appreciated the member for Cowan ensuring that I got taken around the village. He introduced me to a lot of athletes and put me in a position to be able to present some certificates. He was clearly very deeply engaged, as of course was the former Deputy Prime Minister, Tim Fischer, as mayor of the village. I congratulate again the City of Sydney. I congratulate again the New South Wales government, which had primary carriage of these events. I acknowledge too the role of the Commonwealth in all of this and the Commonwealth agencies which have assisted. But above all I congratulate the volunteers—15,000 of them—who supported these events. There were 15,000 volunteers all as cheerful to be servants of the Paralympics as they were to be servants of the Olympics. They were all absolutely determined that everybody who visited the site should have a great experience. We as a nation have had a treat for six weeks now. It has been an extraordinary interlude in our national affairs, during which we have been the focus of international attention and have come through very well. The people of Australia are the principal beneficiaries here. We have been inspired by what we have seen in two successive sets of games—inspired for different reasons. This is not a nation or a generation that will be the same again for this experience.

Question resolved in the affirmative.