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INXS, Midnight Oil, Men At Work Close Sydney Olympics

Rocking ceremony provides contrast to pop-oriented opening event.
by Correspondents Martin Jones and Brian Wise

Singer Kylie Minogue arrived at the Olympics' closing ceremony atop a giant flip-flop sandal. ( )

After the elaborate pop-and-circumstance opening of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, the closing ceremony was a less formal affair, with some of Australia's biggest rock bands, including INXS, Midnight Oil and Men at Work.

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With Sydney's Olympic Stadium packed to capacity with 110,000 people, most of whom had paid U.S. $750 each to attend, Christine Anu opened the proceedings with "My Island Home," surrounded by 31 dancers from the Torres Strait Islands.

Aussie chart toppers Savage Garden (whose singer, Darren Hayes, wore a T-shirt displaying the Aborigine flag) took the stage with their lively feel-good tune "Affirmation." All the athletes poured into the stadium and mingled freely as the band played.

The music that followed the closing speeches and the handing over of the Olympic flag — with music provided by Vangelis — to the mayor of Athens, Greece (host city for the 2004 Olympics), might not have always been of gold-medal standard, but it was certainly memorable.

Singer Vanessa Amorosi, who performed at the opening ceremony, descended from the sky in a space-age cage and stepped onto the stage to perform her Australian dance hit "Absolutely Everybody." The stadium's huge television screens flashed the message "Let's Party," and those in attendance obeyed.

From here, the ceremony offered a seamless string of well-known Australian pop stars from the recent past.

John Paul Young sang a remixed version of "Love Is in the Air." As he sang, the perimeter of the arena filled with thousands of dancers and huge, colorfully gowned inflatable dolls.

Unlike the opening ceremony, the evening featured several internationally recognized names. INXS, fronted by former Noiseworks singer Jon Stevens, performed their huge hit "What You Need" (RealAudio excerpt).

Midnight Oil lead singer Peter Garrett wore his heart on his sleeve during the group's blatantly political "Beds Are Burning" (RealAudio excerpt). The band underscored lyrics about returning Australian land to the Aborigine people by wearing black T-shirts and track pants with the word "sorry" emblazoned in bold white letters. That is the word Australian Prime Minister John Howard (who was in the audience) adamantly refuses to say to the Aborigine people. Garrett's delivery of the line "the time has come to say fair's fair" was a highlight of the event.

Aborigine rock group Yothu Yindi, who blend traditional Aborigine music with Western rock sounds, added to the reconciliation theme with their song "Treaty," co-written by Garrett and Paul Kelly.

The final procession began with a group of stylized beach lifeguards backed by the surf instrumental "Bombora," from legendary 1960s Australian group the Atlantics. Kylie Minogue was carried out on a giant thong (the shoe, not the underwear), transferred to an airborne surfboard and carried to the stage, where she covered Abba's "Dancing Queen."

A series of bizarre celebrity floats entered the arena. Golfer Greg Norman was carried out on a giant silver shark and drove gold balls into the audience. A scantily clad Elle Macpherson arrived on a giant camera. Paul Hogan, in "Crocodile Dundee" garb, showed up on a giant bushman's hat surrounded by bicycling prawns, echoing the bicycling kangaroos sent to Atlanta's closing ceremony.

A scene from the movie "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" was re-created — complete with a drag-queen parade — before Minogue took to the stage again to deliver her latest upbeat dance track, "On a Night Like This."

The athletes, clearly enjoying the uptempo music, danced to Men at Work's two-part rendition of "Down Under" (RealAudio excerpt). The first part featured original Men at Work members Colin Hay and Greg Hamm lip-synching a rerecorded version of the anthem, while the second part was a dance rework.

The closing spot was handed to the uniquely Australian country music of septuagenarian performer Slim Dusty, who recently released his 100th album. Dusty enjoyed his only international hit — "The Pub With No Beer" — nearly 40 years ago. He has since dominated rural Australia's country-music scene. Dusty strolled casually through the athletes and onto the stage with his acoustic guitar while crooning Australia's de facto national anthem, "Waltzing Matilda." The entire stadium joined in, naturally.