This archival material of design drawings, design concepts and photographs represents the 'Elle Macpherson' float that featured in the Closing Ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games. Designed by Brian Thomson and Ross Wallace, it carried Australian super- model, Elle Macpherson, in a parade of Australian celebrities, called 'The Parade of Icons'. Inspired by the fashion industry, the float resembled an over-sized camera with an extending lens that served as a catwalk. Following the float were girls dressed in abstract costumes made from fashion photographs and photographic film. This documentation represents these fashion influences as well as the creative work that took place at the Ceremonies Workshop prior to the Sydney Olympic Games.
Directed by David Atkins, the Parade of Icons was a playful segment of the ceremony that featured Australian celebrities borne on outlandish floats. Kylie Minogue, Greg Norman, the Bananas in Pyjamas, Elle Macpherson, Paul Hogan and the tour bus, 'Priscilla', from the movie, 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert', starred in the parade as Australian icons. To an international audience, these familiar faces seemed incongruous with the menagerie of odd floats and props. Though, to the local audience, the parade was a wry blend of popular culture and Australian humour.
The Closing Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games took place on Sunday, 1 October, at Stadium Australia, Homebush Bay. It included solemn formalities, an informal parade of athletes and a farewell party that took the form of an unregimented parade with floats that celebrated and often mocked aspects of Australian popular culture. The intention was to conduct the ceremony with decorum until the extinction of the Olympic flame, and then to unleash a party. The artistic director of the closing ceremony David Atkins explained: 'The athletes have finished competition, and are ready to party, and we have set about creating a party to end all parties. We have decided to invite everyone into our giant Australian backyard - fully equipped with Hills Hoists, barbecues, an eclectic mix of music, performers and all manner of Australiana. Australians have a tradition of throwing great parties, and this one will be imbued with a sense of fun, larrikinism and goodwill.' According to Ric Birch (speaking on Channel 7's 'Olympic Sunrise'), the Opening Ceremony was to represent Australia at large, but the Closing Ceremony was Sydney's show.
As the ceremony unfolded the proliferation of suburban images, such as Hills Hoists, blowflies, lifesavers and thongs, was treated with self-deprecating irony rather than clich‚. The wit and quality of the 'Parade of Icons' - a gala of Australian celebrities - reflected the influence of the late Peter Tully and his experience as artistic director of the Sydney Mardi Gras. The 'pit chicks', for example, donned silver hot pants and stiletto shoes and carried giant eyelashes and mascara for the Priscilla Bus - a prop that celebrated the Australian film, 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert', as well as local gay culture.
After Vanessa Amorosi's performance of 'Absolutely Everybody', the arena was transformed into a huge dance-floor as 960 ballroom dancing couples in fluorescent costumes danced the samba, tango and jive to the beat of John Paul Young. Accompanying the dancers, were 208 giant dancing feet and the incongruous assembly of oversized kewpie dolls.
The opening ceremony told a mythic story of nation-building that dwarfed individuals. It was evocative and subtle. The closing ceremony, however, celebrated personality, celebrity and attitude. Loud and brash, more like a rock concert than a profoundly theatrical event, it was an extravagant send-off - fun, festive, shamelessly excessive and, for an international audience, decidedly weird.