Nearly a quarter of a century after Cathy Freeman produced one of the most iconic moments in Australian sport, the Olympic champion has been recognised with a major grandstand named in her honour at the stadium where she won gold.
The NSW government on Friday announced the eastern grandstand at Accor Stadium in Sydney Olympic Park would be officially called the Cathy Freeman Stand.
It comes after a public nomination process calling for people to pick a female sporting hero to name the stand after. It’s the first stadium grandstand in NSW to be named after a female athlete.
At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Freeman lit the flame at the opening ceremony in the stadium before two days later winning the women‘s 400m final, famously completing a victory lap holding both the Australian and Aboriginal flags in front of a crowd of more than 110,000 supporters and one of the biggest TV audiences in Australian history.
Only the Matildas’ recent World Cup semi-final showdown with England at the same stadium last month was watched by more people.
“I hope that my story continues to inspire generations of girls and boys to chase their own dreams in sport and life,” Freeman said.
Australian Olympic Committee president Ian Chesterman said it was a fitting honour for an Australian sporting legend.
“This is a wonderful gesture. Australians have a deeply shared affection for one of our greatest athletes. Her victory in the 400m inspired future generations and united Australians in an unprecedented fashion,” Mr Chesterman said.
“A proud Kuku Yalanji and Birri Gubba woman, she has motivated both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians to reach for their dreams.
“The Olympic movement in Australia has long celebrated its female athletes.
“But it’s Cathy Freeman’s achievement that continues to shine a light on what young women can achieve if they have a dream and they pursue it. We owe her a great debt.”
IOC vice-president John Coates, who picked Freeman to light the cauldron in 2000, said she deserved every accolade.
“Her humility in accepting the role in the opening ceremony remains with me today. To turn around and win her event was remarkable.,” he said.
“This latest accolade is richly deserved.”
It comes after the south stand at the MCG in Melbourne was renamed the Shane Warne Stand in honour of the late cricket legend.
Originally published as Grandstand at Sydney’s Olympic stadium named the Cathy Freeman Stand