To the untrained eye the torch-lighting ceremony at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia was just another ornate national pageant, albeit a particularly spectacular one.
For Marion Lay, the chair of the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Bid Corporation and a veteran of two Olympics, it was a defining moment in the history of the games the last seven torch-bearers were women, and the honour of lighting the main torch went to Australian runner Cathy Freeman.
"It was quite an emotional moment for me, beyond my wildest dreams," said Lay, who was in Whistler on May 30 to hold another 2010 fireside chat at the Tantalus Lodge. She recently received a Women and Sport trophy for North America from the International Olympic Committee for her contribution to the advancement of women in sport in Canada and around the world.
"Even the Australian Olympic officials didnt know how it would go in the media, there was some concern about backlash in the media. One Olympic organizer told me he was waiting for the papers the next day with his bags packed."
The opening ceremony received nothing but praise, and Lay felt that the status of women in the Olympics had reached a new high a high she is determined to build on when the Bid Corporation formally announces its intention to bid on the 2010 Winter Olympics.
"The challenge at hand is to put together a list of dreams and legacies that we want to see happen when putting together our bid its our bid, and we can make it anything we want," said Lay.
"The IOC will give us 22 questions, and we are allowed to answer one page for each. There will be questions about finances, and facilities, and transportation. The winter sports need to be in there, and the legacies were going to leave this province and Canada need to be in there.
"The one legacy I would like to see is more involvement by women at every level, more athletes, more coaches, more people in the organization."
The Sydney Games marked the 100 th anniversary of the participation of women in the Olympics, and by many standards it was a breakthrough for women in sports.
More than 20 new womens events were added to the games, including womens pole vault, modern pentathlon, water polo, and weight lifting. Two completely new sports, Taekwondo and the Triathlon, were open to both men and women.
The Australian Institute of Sport also took the lead in funding by bringing in a new pay scale that matches the level of team funding to their level of success. Some mens sports lost funding in this new formula, while funding for womens sports overall quadrupled.
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