Olympic Cauldron at Sydney Olympic Park | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

Culture and heritage


Olympic Cauldron at Sydney Olympic Park

Item details

Name of item: Olympic Cauldron at Sydney Olympic Park
Other name/s: The Cauldron, Sydney Olympic Games Cauldron, Millenium Games Cauldron, Sydney 2000 Games Cauldron
Type of item: Built
Group/Collection: Recreation and Entertainment
Category: Olympic Facility
Location: Lat: -33.8455238080 Long: 151.0657311430
Primary address: Cathy Freeman Park near corner of Olympic Boulevard and the Grand Parade, Sydney Olympic Park, NSW 2127
Parish: Concord
County: Cumberland
Local govt. area: Auburn
Local Aboriginal Land Council: Metropolitan
Property description
Lot/Volume CodeLot/Volume NumberSection NumberPlan/Folio CodePlan/Folio Number
PART LOT1000 DP1127564
PART LOT161 DP1155500
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
Cathy Freeman Park near corner of Olympic Boulevard and the Grand ParadeSydney Olympic ParkAuburnConcordCumberlandPrimary Address


Organisation NameOwner CategoryDate Ownership Updated
Sydney Olympic Park AuthorityState Government 

Statement of significance:

The Olympic Cauldron at Sydney Olympic Park is of State historic significance as the culmination of the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games on 15 September 2000 and a reminder of Sydney's success and honour in having hosted the Millennium Games. The opening ceremony is considered to be a triumph of Australian showmanship which was watched by hundreds of millions of people around the world. The Olympic Cauldron is also of State significance for its associations with the Olympic athletes who participated in the Sydney 2000 Games and particularly with the Aboriginal athlete Cathy Freeman, who was chosen to be the final Australian link in the Olympic Torch relay to light the cauldron, thus marking the commencement of the Games. The image of the lit cauldron flowing with fire and water as it rose around Freeman is one of the most memorable images of the Sydney Olympic Games. The Olympic Cauldron is of State significance for the esteem in which it is held by Australians proud of the success of the Sydney Olympic Games. It is also of social significance to Sydney Olympic Park visitors for its later role as a popular fountain in the Cathy Freeman Park next to the Olympic Stadium. The Olympic Cauldron is of representative and rarity State significance as the only cauldron designed and built to hold an Olympic flame in NSW.
Date significance updated: 19 May 14
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Designer/Maker: Michael Scott-Mitchell (original design) and Tzannes Associates (re-presented in Cathy Freeman Park)
Builder/Maker: Engineers Tierney and Partners with the assistance of LUSAS Civil and Structural
Construction years: 2000-2010
Physical description: 'The 8.5 tonne cauldron is a perforated, corrugated shell structure fabricated from stainless steel. It has an overall diameter of 10m and tapers from 0.85m thick at centre down to 0.15m thick at the edge.' (Lusas consultant engineers, http://www.lusas.com/case/civil/cauldron.html)
[The cauldron] was designed to rise out of a circular pond after the flame was lit, and ascend, as though floating, up a waterfall to the top of the northern stand. It was collected by a 50 metre mast rising from behind the stand, and the main burner in the tip of the mast was lit. (NLA catalogue entry)

In 2001 the end stand on the northern part of the stadium was removed and Tzannes Associates commissioned to reinterpret the cauldron, relocated nearby to the Overflow, now known as Cathy Freeman Park. There the cauldron's stem was removed and it was repositioned on top of a group of 24 stainless steel poles organized in a haphazard arrangement, approximately 10 metres above the ground. It operates intermittently as a giant fountain with water flowing over the sides of the cauldron onto the pavement below, to the delight of children who in summer often play under the shower.

'The retrofitted cauldron is complete with a new burner system, and a water feature inside the perforated cladding. Both of these features are fed via services in an underground plant room, directly below the cauldron. This plant room is included within the curtilage and also houses: the light fittings lighting the cauldron; irrigation pumps and manifold; potable and non potable water meters; and filtration and chemical treatment of the water to the water feature.' (SOPA Manual, Section 1.2)

The cauldron is surrounded by a decorative elliptical pavement inlaid with the names of all those who won gold, silver and bronze medals at the Sydney Olympic Games, known as the 'Roll of Honour'. The Roll of Honour is an Olympic traditional whereby medal-winning athletes are permanently acknowledged, typically in the vicinity of the Olympic Stadium. [It includes] both Paralympic and Olympic athletes. (OCA Tender, 2001
Current use: Fountain, capable of being lit on approved ceremonial occasions
Former use: Ceremonial flame holder for the Sydney Olympic Games & Paralympic Games 2000.


Historical notes: Aboriginal land
Aboriginal people have been associated with the Homebush Bay area for many thousands of years. When Europeans arrived in 1788, the Homebush Bay area formed part of the traditional lands of the Wanngal clan. The lands of the Wanngal clan extended along the southern shore of the Parramatta River between about Leichhardt and Auburn. The Wanngal clan would have had access rights to the resources of the Homebush Bay area, but would have routinely interacted with neighbouring clan groups.
Shortly after the British colonisation of Sydney several smallpox epidemics ravaged the local Aboriginal population, leaving many of the clans seriously depleted. By way of adaptation, members of neighbouring clan groups are known to have joined together to ensure their survival. Aboriginal people were still using the Homebush Bay area in the early 1800s even after their lands were granted to Europeans. Several encounters and conflicts between Europeans and Aboriginal people are documented for the Homebush Bay area throughout the 1790s, and in the early 1800s Aboriginal people (perhaps of the Wanngal clan) were working for and supplying fish to europeans in the area (Cameo, 2002: 46). For the period after the 1810s, no references have yet been located which describe Aboriginal people living in the Homebush Bay area (although this is the subject of ongoing research through the Aboriginal History & Connections Program. This program was launched by the Sydney Olympic Park Authority in April 2002, a long-term program aimed at documenting Aboriginal connections to the Homebush Bay area before and after the arrival of Europeans).
Today the Homebush Bay area is within the asserted traditional cultural boundary of the Darug language group, of which the Wanngal clan is said to have belonged. The descendents of Darug traditional owners of the Sydney area play a custodial role in the preservation of Aboriginal cultural heritage and are actively involved with archaeological and historical research in and around Homebush Bay. The area also falls within the administrative boundary of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council which also plays a major role in the investigation and preservation of Aboriginal culture and heritage.

The Sydney Olympic Park locality was first known to Europeans as 'The Flats', as described by Lieutenant Bradley in his charting of the river in 1788. The name 'Liberty Plains' was also given to the locality but referred to the higher and drier lands along Parramatta Road and referred to the first group of settlers who were free rather than convict, who established farms there in 1793. (Carney & Mider, 1996: 11) The first European settler was Thomas Laycock (1756?-1809), who was granted 40 hectares between Parramatta Road and Homebush Bay in October 1794. He named his farm, Home Bush and ran sheep and cattle there. Laycock was Quartermaster of the NSW Corps and also held other government positions. D'Arcy Wentworth (c.1762-1827) purchased the 318 hectare holding from the Laycock family in January 1808. With additional grants Wentworth's holdings at Homebush Bay totalled 372 hectares by 1810. Wentworth established a horse stud and a private racetrack adjoining Parramatta Road and was influential among the early government officials and free settlers. He died at Homebush on 7 July 1827 (ADB, Vol. II).
Homebush was inherited by William Wentworth (1790-1872), who continued in his father's tradition of controversial public service. With his neighbour Gregory Blaxland, he was in the first exploration party to find a route through the Blue Mountains. He expanded and developed his father's bequest of properties, becoming one of the colony's richest men by his death in 1872. The property was let to numerous tenants throughout William's ownership, while he lived at Vaucluse House in Sydney. William, who was elected president of the Sydney Turf Club in 1832, gave permission for the existing racetrack to be upgraded for public race meetings. The racetrack included grandstands, stables and spelling paddocks which stretched over the Sydney Olympic Park site. The property was inherited by William Wentworth's son, Fitzwilliam. (Painter & Waterhouse, 1992:15-22).

State Abattoir
In 1907 367 hectares, most of the Wentworth estate, was resumed for the building of the State Abattoirs. Specifications for the general arrangement and layout of the site and drawings of the gatehouse, administration buildings, mutton, pork, beef and veal houses were completed in 1909 by the Department of Public Works under Government Architect Walter Liberty Vernon and construction completed in 1913. The gardens were also designed in 1913 by Joseph Maiden, Director of the Sydney Botanic Gardens, including the historic formal avenue of trees that is located on the eastern boundary of the Overflow. Consisting of Brush Box (Lophostemon confertus) and Spotted Gum (Eucalyptus maculata) this row of trees is referred to as 'the allee' (OCA Tender documents, 2001). The cauldron is located in the Overflow, a park just west of the former main abattoir administration precinct and allee, on land which formed a car park for the abattoir.
By 1923 the State Abattoir employed 1,600 people and had a killing capacity of 25,000 animals a week, making it one of the largest abattoirs in Australia. The abattoirs continued to expand during World War II and into the 1950s with works provided for the treatment of offal, refrigeration, the preparation of tallow, fertilizers, meat for export and canning of pet foods (Godden & Associates 1989: 21ff). By the 1970s the facilities required rebuilding and a decision was taken not to upgrade but to redevelop surplus land for industrial use. The area to the east of the administration precinct, endorsed as an Advanced Technology Park at the beginning of 1984, is now known as the Australia Centre (Fox & Associates 1986: 48-50). The State Abattoir officially closed on 10 June 1988 and the Homebush Abattoir Corporation wound up on June 30 1992.
After 1992 the Abattoir precinct was occupied by a number of organisations that ultimately became the Sydney Olympic Park Authority (SOPA). Sydney won the right to host the Olympic Games on 23 September 1993, after being selected over Beijing, Berlin, Istanbul and Manchester at the 101st IOC Session in Monte Carlo, Monaco. (Wikipedia, '2000 Summer Olympics').

Sydney 2000 Summer Olympic Games
The Sydney 2000 Games, officially known as the Games of the XXVII Olympiad or the Millennium Games, was an international multi-sport event which was celebrated between 15 September and 1 October 2000 in Sydney. It was the second time that the Summer Olympics were held in the southern hemisphere (the first being in Melbourne in 1956). (Wikipedia, '2000 Summer Olympics').
The Sydney 2000 Games was considered to be a great sporting event and national success story: 'From the moment the first stock horse and rider galloped in to the centre of the opening-ceremony stage. . . the public sentiment became one of overwhelming confidence. The weather remained friendly. . . The venues, the crowd control and the public transport system were perfect, the volunteers a delight. . . For 17 days, from opening to closing, the whole experience had an almost other-worldly quality to it. To be in the streets was to be surrounded by a smile. . . The mood of mutual enjoyment was infectious and at times a little dream-like. . . Like all Olympic Games, Sydney 2000 showcased heroes and heroines and yielded lifetime memories that encapsulated proud and improbably spectacles, as well as performances that prickled our deepest emotions. . . 10,561 athletes from 200 countries competed for 300 gold medals. . . (Gordon, 2003, p191-3)
Juan Antonio Samaranch, President of International Olympic Committee (IOC) famously stated at the conclusion to the games: 'You have presented to the world the best Olympic Games ever' (Gordon, 2003, 191).

The Sydney Olympic Games opening ceremony
'At sunset on Friday, September 15, 2000, approximately 100,000 spectators and over 12,000 performers celebrated the opening of the 27th Olympiad in Sydney, Australia. Four billion viewers joined them world wide (IOC/ TWI, 2000).
'Ric Birch, the Director of Ceremonies and David Atkins, the artistic director, produced an epic pageant of Australian culture. From a lone rider on a chestnut stallion to the 120 stock horses and riders who started the show at a gallop, to the 11 minutes corroboree, Awakening, where 900 indigenous citizens created the most haunting segment of the opening ceremony to the performers who breathed flames to recreate a bushfire, the audience saw a visual tapestry of this country (IOC/ TWI, 2000).
'In Deep Sea Dreaming, 13 year old Nicki Webster floated amongst giant luminous jellyfish, seahorses, and anemones above the arena, while the sea floor flickered with schools of human fish. Dreamtime spirits represented by Djakapurra Munyarryn and hundreds of clan members filled the stadium with images of the original Australians, which led into a magical wildflower carpet, with people dressed as honey myrtles, waterlilies, banksias, and Sturt Desert peas, with waratahs glowing a vibrant crimson. Hundreds of students sprouted petals and leaves (IOC/ TWI, 2000).
'Captain Cook's First Fleet arrived, then Ned Kelly came out in force in Tin Symphony, which paid tribute to Australia's rural beginnings. Then, 'Arrivals' introduced the many people from every continent who have chosen to call Australian home, culminating in a thunderous tribute to industry in the form of Adam Garcia's large troupe of tappers, who made the sparks fly. They were then joined by many of the 12,600 performers for a huge finale before welcoming to the arena a 2,000 piece marching band with participants from around the globe. Their stirring renditions of 'Waltzing Matilda', 'Chariots of Fire' and the LA Olympic fanfare and theme introduced the athletes who were to follow (IOC/ TWI, 2000).
'A seemingly endless parade of 12,000 athletes and coaches, from 200 countries - the largest representation of any Olympic games. North and South Korea marched united for the first time in nearly a century, and a wave of emotion swept the stadium, but nothing compared to the roar that greeted the Australian team (IOC/ TWI, 2000).
'Herb Elliot, 1,500m gold medallist at Rome, ran with the torch into Stadium Australia and handed it to Betty Cuthbert, whose wheelchair was pushed by Raelene Boyle. Dawn Fraser, Shirley Strickland-de la Hunty, Shane Gould and Debbie Flintoff-King then carried the flame in tribute to 100 years of women's participation in the Olympics (IOC/ TWI, 2000).
'Finally the Torch was handed to Cathy Freeman, Australia's favourite who was given the honour of lighting the cauldron, in a magnificent display of fire and water against a backdrop of the seventy-metre waterfall' (IOC/ TWI, 2000).

The lighting of the Olympic Cauldron at the Sydney 2000 Olympics
On 10 May 2000 in Olympia, Greece, the Sydney 2000 Olympic Torch Relay was commenced with a flame which would be carried by various means of transport across the world to Australia (Costain, 2000, p8). In Australia the torch followed a circuitous 27,000 km journey around the country visiting many towns and communities,, starting in Uluru and ending in Sydney. the Torch relay ceremony became characterised by 'a blend of pride, enjoyment, wonder and bonding - a reinforced sense of national identity' (Gordon, 2003, p144.
'[Finally reaching Stadium Australia during the opening ceremony] The final lap with the torch offered not only the opportunity to for the 110,000 crowd to salute a magnificent medley of six Australian women who had between them won 15 gold medals. Inevitably it also involved a kind of crossing-off process in solving the identity of the person a the core of the big secret. So it wasn't Betty? Not Dawn either? Not Shirley, eh? After Gould skipped her way to Flintoff-King, who then passed the torch to Freeman, the picture was suddenly clear, and somehow just right. Homage had been paid to the past, with a treasured group of female champions making a centenary of women's participation in the games. A wonderful relay that had begun with one young indigenous woman, Nova Peris-Kneebone, had ended with another. The Freeman culmination, at the end of a ceremony that had emphasised Aboriginal heritage and addressed the issue of reconciliation, amounted to a quietly eloquent statement about the kind of nation Australia aspired to be. It underlined itself boldly as a significant moment in the nation's history.
'Freeman ascended four flights of stairs carrying the torch, then walked across a shallow circular pond to an island in the centre, where she dipped the torch low, then swept it around her to ignite a ring of fire. The pond concealed a submerged cauldron, and the circle of fire consisted of 150 nozzles around the rim of its gas-burner. The whole concept, this tableau that represented a memorable marriage of fire and water, was the brainchild of Ric Birch; he had nursed it since he first took it to engineers and project managers in 1995, and had somehow kept it secret. Freeman stood motionless as the now-flaming cauldron rose around her, like a cascading umbrella, then walked from the pond and stood, a solitary figure, torch aloft. She stayed like that for a long time, because a freak signal had caused a glitch in the computer that drove the cauldron on the rails to its place above the stadium. For what seemed an eternity, it didn't move, and Freeman remained there, space-suited, still as a sculpture, and very wet. Then two attendant engineers, Peter Tait and Rob Ironside, re-programmed the computer, made the winch system work, and the cauldron made its slow, majestic voyage upwards, against a waterfall background.' (Gordon, 2003, pp186-9)
Despite the temporary glitch, the television footage of Cathy Freeman lighting the cauldron was declared 'the sporting image of the year' by Sportel, a major international sports television convention held annually in Monaco, which awarded its coveted 'Golden Podium' award to the Sydney Olympic Broadcasting Organisation for the cauldron lighting sequence. (Sydney Morning Herald, 22/11/2000)

Cathy Freeman
Catherine Astrid Salome Freeman, OAM (known as Cathy Freeman) (born 16 February 1973) is an Australian Aboriginal sprinter who is particularly associated with the 400 metres running race. She became the Olympic champion for 400 m in the 2000 Sydney games, at which she lit the Olympic Flame. Freeman was born in Slade Point, Mackay, Queensland, where the local athletics track is named after her. (Wikipedia, 'Cathy Freeman')
Freeman's first coach was her stepfather, Bruce Barber. By her early teens she had a collection of regional and national titles, from competing in the 100 metres, 200 metres and high jump. In 1990, Freeman was chosen as a member of Australia's 4X100 m relay team for the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand. The team won the gold medal, making Freeman the first Aboriginal Commonwealth Games gold medallist, as well as one of the youngest, at 16 years old. In 1992, Freeman competed in her first Olympic Games, reaching the second round of the 400 metres. Competing at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Canada, Freeman won gold in both the 200 m and 400 m. At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Freeman won the silver medal behind France's Marie-Jose Perec in an Australian record of 48.63 seconds. In 1997 at the World Championships in Athens, Freeman won the World title in 49.77 seconds and in 1999, successfully defended her World title. (Wikipedia, 'Cathy Freeman')
Freeman was the home favourite for the 400 m title at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, where she was expected to face-off with rival Perec. This showdown never happened, as Perec left the Games after an encounter with an Australian photographer. Freeman won the Olympic title in a time of 49.11 seconds. After the race, Freeman took a victory lap, carrying both the Aboriginal and Australian flags, despite the fact that unofficial flags are banned at the Olympic Games. (Wikipedia, 'Cathy Freeman')
After her Olympic triumph, Freeman chose to take a break from the track, not competing during the 2001 season. During 2002, Freeman returned to the track to compete as a member of Australia's victorious 4x400 m relay team at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Freeman announced her retirement in 2003. (Wikipedia, 'Cathy Freeman')
'The selection of Freeman to light the Olympic cauldron seemed highly appropriate to most Australians - she excelled in her sport, protested against injustices to Aboriginal people, and spoke proudly of her Aboriginal heritage. These qualities stirred a nation that was debating reconciliation with its indigenous people. Perceptively, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times wrote during the Olympics: 'Freeman has emerged at the Sydney 2000 Games as the most potent symbol of a nation's hopes both for Olympic glory and reconciliation for sins of the past' (as quoted by Paul Sheehan in "Cathy who? Condoms and controversy make a world of difference", Sydney Morning Herald, 27 Sep. 2000, p.2). Moreover, Freeman's prominence at the opening ceremony encapsulated the Olympic ideals of promoting sport and celebrating the history and culture of the host country. (Reade, Powerhouse Museum, 2010)

The lighting of the cauldron at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics
The lighting of the Olympic Cauldron by wheelchair racer Louise Sauvage at the opening ceremony for the Sydney Paralympic Games on 18 October 2000 was another spectacle highlight. It was the culmination of another torch relay, but one that had commenced with a lighting ceremony at Parliament House, Canberra on 5 October 2000. Involving 920 torchbearers, each of whom carried the flame an average of 500 metres, it visited each Australian capital city by air. Then within New South Wales it travelled from Moss Vale through the Southern Highlands, Illawarra, Campbelltown, Penrith, Windsor, Hunter and Central Coast areas before heading to Sydney. Like the Olympic Torch Relay before it, the Paralympic Torch Relay succeeded in generating community and media support for the Games, with crowds in many areas and significant crowds lining the Sydney metropolitan route in the final two days of the relay.
The lighting of the cauldron for the Paralympic Sydney Games 2000 was reported in a Sydney newspaper the following morning:
'The lighting of the cauldron, the same one that burned for two weeks during the Olympic Games, was less elaborate than the breathtaking fire-and-water sequence that was the climax of the Olympic opening ceremony. First a miniature cauldron, specially designed and constructed by AGL, which had risen from beneath the centre stage, was lit. The aluminium disc, fuelled by LPG and filled with fibreglass material to enhance the flame, flared brightly as it rose even higher. Then, in the style of a fire breather, it threw a seven-metre-long gas-fuelled flame in the direction of the cauldron high above the stadium floor at the top of the grandstand. That set off a series of relay flames fireworks synchronised by computer to music along the field, on the main stage and up through the stand. It gave the appearance of the flame being whisked up to the main cauldron (also fuelled by gas) which re-ignited to the delight of the 100,000 crowd. The mast was extended to once again lift the cauldron high above the stadium, where it will remain for the next 11 days.' (Sydney Morning Herald, 19/10/2000)

The design of the Olympic Cauldron
The idea of a cauldron lighting ceremony that combined fire and water was conceived by Ric Birch, Director of Ceremonies for the opening ceremony. The cauldron itself was designed by Michael Scott-Mitchell. The structural design of cauldron, mast and transport components was largely undertaken by Tierney and Partners with the assistance of LUSAS Civil and Structural. Its construction involved two years of planning, design and rigorous implementation by a team of design engineers, manufacturers and suppliers covering structural, mechanical, electrical and hydraulic engineering, gas-burner technology and computer control. (NLA catalogue entry for MSM)
On the day of the opening ceremony (15 September 2000), a press release offered Michael Scott-Mitchell's description of his experience of the design process and his understanding of the symbolism of the spectacle:
'In early January 1997, I met with Ric Birch to discuss a 'little project' he had in mind for me which turned out to be the design for the Olympic Cauldron. Ric had already thought of using a release of water from the top of the northern stand in some form or other. A suggestion had been made that the Cauldron could be presented by pushing it through the resulting 'waterfall'. Neither Ric nor I thought this was a particularly appropriate solution although it was a springboard in my mind for the notion of using a water effect with the Cauldron. By the end of our meeting, Ric had presented me with the fabulous brief of working out how to combine fire and water in the presentation of the Olympic Cauldron.
'By the time I had reached my car parked outside Ric's house, I had conceptually resolved the design that exists today. The salient components were that the athlete would appear to walk across a still body of water ('the pond') backed by a turbulent waterfall. Then, in a simple gesture the athlete would apply the Olympic torch to this still body of water in a circle around him or herself and become surrounded by a ring of fire.
'The fire would then lift 'magically' revealing it to be the Cauldron rising from under the water and around the athlete. With the athlete remaining at the centre of the pond, the lit Cauldron would continue to rise above the athlete with the waterfall as a backdrop and would appear to 'float' above the water torrent cascading down the northern stand as it continued its journey towards the very top.
'I was genuinely excited about the combination of these two natural elements: Fire and Water. Each has its own very particular attributes, which in an unexpected way compliment one another perfectly. They are perhaps the two elements that resonate most profoundly with the Australian landscape. Both have cleansing and restorative qualities that cyclically regenerate our land. It is their ability to cleanse and regenerate that symbolically most excited me. Each ceremony lighting the Olympic Cauldron has had a profound and symbolic resonance with its particular period in history. I couldn't help being mindful of the fact that the lighting of the Cauldron for the Sydney 2000 Olympics is the first in a new Millennium, and I was keen to express the notion of the regeneration of the Olympic Spirit in the design.'
'. . . the technological demands of the design have been daunting, and the intervening years have involved the talents of many people in bringing the design to fruition, befitting the Olympic Spirit. These have included theatrical production managers, mechanical engineers, fire and gas experts, water experts, weather experts, risk management experts; the list goes on . . Ric Birch, Michael Knight and latterly David Atkins have been unswerving in their endeavour to see the project fully realised. Finally Director Richard Wherrett was charged with choreographing and directing the entrance of the torch into the stadium, and the lighting of the flame.'
'At the end of the day, the lighting of the Cauldron is really about an athlete lighting a flame and providing a symbol that allows our spirits to soar and celebrate all that is positive in human endeavour, whether it be sporting, creative or scientific. It is my hope that we have embodied this in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Cauldron.' (Scott-Mitchell in SOCOG, 2000)

The tradition of the Olympic flame, torch relay and cauldron
The Olympic Flame or Olympic Torch is a symbol of the Olympic Games. Commemorating the theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus by Prometheus, its origins lie in ancient Greece, where a fire was kept burning throughout the celebration of the ancient Olympics. The fire was reintroduced at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, and it has been part of the modern Olympic Games ever since. According to legend, the torch's flame has been kept burning, ever since the first Olympics. (Wikipedia, 'Olympic flame', August 2010)
For the ancient Greeks, fire had divine connotations - it was thought to have been stolen from the gods by Prometheus. Therefore, fire was also present at many of the sanctuaries in Olympia, Greece. A fire permanently burned on the altar of Hestia in Olympia, Greece. During the Olympic Games, which honored Zeus, additional fires were lit at his temple and that of his wife, Hera. The modern Olympic flame is ignited at the site where the temple of Hera used to stand. (Wikipedia, 'Olympic flame', August 2010)
The Olympic Torch today is ignited several months before the opening celebration of the Olympic Games at the site of the ancient Olympics in Olympia, Greece. Eleven women, representing the Vestal Virgins, perform a ceremony in which the torch is kindled by the light of the Sun, its rays concentrated by a parabolic mirror. (Wikipedia, 'Olympic flame', August 2010)
In contrast to the Olympic flame proper, the torch relay of modern times, which transports the flame from Greece to the various designated sites of the games, had no ancient precedent and was introduced by Carl Diem at the controversial 1936 Berlin Olympics. (Wikipedia, 'Olympic flame', August 2010)
The Olympic Torch Relay ends on the day of the opening ceremony in the central stadium of the Games. The final carrier is often kept unannounced until the last moment, and is usually a sports celebrity of the host country. The final bearer of the torch runs towards the cauldron, often placed at the top of a grand staircase, and then uses the torch to start the flame in the stadium. It is considered a great honor to be asked to light the Olympic Flame. After being lit, the flame continues to burn throughout the Olympics, and is extinguished on the day of the closing ceremony. (Wikipedia, 'Olympic flame', August 2010)

Current presentation of the cauldron
In 2001 the end stand on the northern part of the stadium was removed and Tzannes Associates commissioned to reinterpret the cauldron, relocated nearby to the Overflow, now known as Cathy Freeman Park. There the cauldron's stem was removed and it was repositioned on top of a group of 24 stainless steel poles organized in a haphazard arrangement, approximately 10 metres above the ground. It operates intermittently as a giant fountain with water flowing over the sides of the cauldron onto the pavement below, to the delight of children who in summer often play under the shower.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. All nations - reconciliation events-
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Ethnic influences-Activities associated with common cultural traditions and peoples of shared descent, and with exchanges between such traditions and peoples. Multi-national sporting events-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Events-Activities and processes that mark the consequences of natural and cultural occurences Holding opening and dedication ceremonies-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Events-Activities and processes that mark the consequences of natural and cultural occurences Holding international shows-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Technology-Activities and processes associated with the knowledge or use of mechanical arts and applied sciences Technologies for creating spectacles-
8. Culture-Developing cultural institutions and ways of life Sport-Activities associated with organised recreational and health promotional activities Managing the Olympic Games in Sydney 2000-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Cathy Freeman, Aboriginal Olympic athlete-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The Sydney Olympic Park Cauldron is of State historic significance as the culmination of the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games on 15 September 2000. The opening ceremony is considered to be a triumph of Australian showmanship which was watched by hundreds of millions of people around the world. It is also a reminder of Sydney's success and honour in having hosted the Millennium Games.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The Sydney Olympic Park Cauldron is of State significance for its associations with the Olympic athletes who participated in the Sydney 2000 Games and particularly with the Aboriginal athlete Cathy Freeman, who was chosen to be the final Australian link in the Olympic Torch relay to light the cauldron, thus symbolising the commencement of the Games. The image of the lit cauldron flowing with water as it rose around Freeman is one of the most memorable images of the Sydney Olympic Games.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The Sydney Olympic Park Cauldron is of State significance as a symbolic focal point for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, which is held in high esteem by many Australians. It is also likely to be of significance for its later role as a popular fountain in the Overflow next to the Olympic Stadium.
SHR Criteria f)
The Sydney Olympic Park Cauldron is of State significance as the only Olympic cauldron to be designed and to hold the Olympic flame in NSW.
SHR Criteria g)
The Sydney Olympic Park Cauldron is of State significance as the Australian and NSW representative of Olympic cauldrons internationally.
Integrity/Intactness: The integrity and aesthetic significance of the cauldron has been impacted by its change of position since the Sydney 200 Games. Detached from its stem and removed from its elevated position 50 metres above the ground at the northern end of the Olympic stadium, the cauldron is now perched atop a haphazard arrangement of steel rods in a park near the stadium, where its constantly flowing water forms a popular fountain feature. It can still be lit with a flame for ceremonial occasions.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Sep 10 2010
57(2)Exemption to allow workHeritage Act - Site Specific Exemptions a) All Standard Exemptions.
b) Activities and works associated with the use, maintenance and repair of the Olympic Cauldron that do not impact materially on the significance of the Olympic Cauldron and excluding any new development. This exemption includes works on pumps, pipes, gas and electrical installation in the basement plant space beneath the Olympic Cauldron.
c) The lighting of the Olympic Cauldron on ceremonial occasions where this has been authorised by the SOPA Cauldron Policy.
d) Maintenance and repairs to the Roll of Honour (an elliptical pavement design inlaid with names of athletes who won gold, silver and bronze medals at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games) including replacement of tiles and plaques.
e) All temporary and permanent signage that is consistent with a Heritage Council endorsed Conservation Management Plan for the site and does not obstruct sight lines to and from the Olympic Cauldron.
Nov 10 2010

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0183910 Sep 10 1144439

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written  Tzannes Associates webpage entry on their design for the relocation of the cauldron in Cathy Freeman Park View detail
Written Auchmuty, J. J.1967'D'Arcy Wentworth', Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB) Vol.II
WrittenCameo Interpretative Projects2002Interpretative Strategy Building 18 Sydney Olympic Park
WrittenCarney, Martin & Mider, Dana1996Archaeological Assessment of Homebush House and the Former Laycock and Wentworth Estates
WrittenCathy Reade1998Sydney 2000 Olympic Games torch used by Cathy Freeman. View detail
WrittenCostain, Meredith for SOCOG2000Sydney 2000 Olympic Games
WrittenFox & Associates1986Homebush Bay Conservation Study
WrittenGodden, Don & Associates1989Newington Armaments Depot CMPs for individual sites
WrittenGraham Brooks & Associates2003Millenium Parklands Heritage Precinct: Conservation Master Plan
WrittenHarry Gordon2003The Time of Our Lives, Inside the Sydney Olympics
WrittenInternational Olympic Committee and TWI (IOC/TWI)2000The Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Olympic Games, A Sydney Celebration
WrittenNational Library of Australia (NLA)2010Catalogue entry for "Design for the cauldron of the Sydney Olympic Games, 2000 [technical drawing] / Michael Scott-Mitchell"
WrittenOlympic Co-ordination Authority1999Building Application Assessment Report Project Scott Mitchell No.159/99
WrittenOlympic Coordination Authority (OCA)2001Tender ("Invitation for Proposal") for Design and Documentation of Overflow Park and Cauldron Relocation Homebush
WrittenPainter, M & Waterhouse, R1992The Principal Club, A History of the Australian Jockey Club
WrittenSOCOG2000Media release: "The Sydney 2000 Olympic Cauldron" 15 September 2000
ElectronicSydney Olympic Park Authority Sydney Olympic Park Authority Home Page View detail
WrittenSydney Olympic Park Trust2010Sydney Olympic Park Master Plan 2030
WrittenWikipedia (July 2010)2010"2000 Sydney Olympics"

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5061184
File number: EF10/13397

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