The Music of the Olympics: Lighting the Cauldron at Sydney (2000)

(Note: Start the video at the 12:00 mark)

The opening ceremony for the 2000 Summer Games were spectacular on multiple levels. Who can forget the spectacle of the giant jellyfish (and other fish) “swimming” through the stadium? Or the fact that the little girl at the center of the story kept her involvement a complete secret from her parents? But the best spectacle of all came when the cauldron was lit, because the 2000 Games have gone down in history as one of the most inventive ways to light the cauldron, EVER! And the music for this moment is so powerful, so moving, that even now, 16 years later, I can’t hear it without tearing up.

2000 Sydney Games: Lighting the Cauldron “Tibi Omnes”

The music for this moment is entitled “Tibi Omnes” and comes from a Te Deum composed by Hector Berlioz (Te Deum is a religious piece of music that begins with the Latin “Te Deum laudamus/We Praise you God” and is meant as a song of thanksgiving or celebration). The choir is joined by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the sound of a gorgeous pipe organ (though it was revealed years later that the entire performance was pre-recorded and the musicians were miming their performance). The music for “Tibi Omnes” rises and falls several times as the torch changes hands. Finally though, the final torchbearer, Cathy Freeman, is reached and things really begin to build. There is a long build as she races up the long staircase. Everything is perfect, but where is the cauldron? I remember being bewildered when Cathy went to stand in a pool of water, and then THIS happened:

Cathy Freeman cauldron

This is the moment that makes me cry. As the flames are lit, the organ sounds in full power as the massive cauldron RISES up out of the water, and Cathy is there standing right in the middle, torch held high! From the front, it really does look like the cauldron is floating up on its own, creating a moment of pure magic and spectacle that has rarely been matched in the following years. You can hear the roar of the crowd intensify as it dawns on them that they cauldron has been hiding in plain sight.

I love the music here: the choir combined with the organ and the rising cauldron, it’s perfect, there’s no other word to describe it. Moments like this are why I persist in watching the opening ceremony on TV, because for a few minutes, you can pretend that everything is right with the world.

I do have to share one story though. This moment is also notable for being one of those rare times when the behind the scenes operations broke down. That’s the thing with trying to make the most impressive spectacle: the more complicated you make it, the more likely a problem will occur. In this case, after the cauldron rose up out of the water, it was supposed to continue seamlessly up the side of the stadium until it reached the top. Well…what ACTUALLY happened is the computer controlling the machinery detected a false reading (it thought it’s job was done, or something of that nature) and shut itself down, so the cauldron simply hovered instead of rising for an agonizing four minutes. Thankfully, the problem was immediately recognized and solved and the cauldron proceeded on its way. Another Games (*cough* Vancouver *cough*) were not so lucky.

I hope you enjoyed listening to this moment from the Olympic Games (I know it’s not what I usually cover, but I thought I would try something different). Have a good day! -Bex 🙂

For more Olympic Music see:

The Music of the Olympics: Lighting the Athens Cauldron (2004)

The Music of the Olympics: “Summon the Heroes” Atlanta 1996


One thought on “The Music of the Olympics: Lighting the Cauldron at Sydney (2000)

  1. Pingback: The Music of the Olympics: Lighting the Athens Cauldron (2004) | Film Music Central

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