The Australian heroine from start, when she carried the Olympic torch into the stadium, to finish, as she crossed the line to take 400m gold, was the indigenous athlete Cathy Freeman. Against the will of many of her still oppressed people, she came to represent the symbol, albeit shallow, of reconciliation between White and Aboriginal Australia. But the frenzy of flames and fireworks surrounding the Games blinded the rest of the world to the darker side of a land down under.
In 1999, John Pilger returned home to find that the elaborate preparations for the Games overshadowed a hidden world where Aborigines continue to live in Third World conditions. He revealed that some of the greatest sportsmen and women in the world were in fact Aboriginal. Many of them, like blacks in South Africa under Apartheid, were until recently denied a place in their country’s Olympic teams.
He also found that the Australian Government was in the process of overturning the landmark legislation of 1992 which finally recognised Aborigines as people with common law rights before the English colonised the country. ‘Welcome to Australia: The Secret Shame Behind the Sydney Olympics’ was the third film Pilger made on the Aboriginal struggle alongside fellow Australian, Alan Lowery.