Bud Greenspan and his team returned to form for Sydney 2000: Stories of Olympic Glory. The film climaxes with the athletics events of 25 September 2000, which we are told by narrator Will Lyman is considered by many to be “the greatest night in track and field history” with nine finals contested. The competitive riches are emphasized by cutting back and forth among several events taking place at the same time. We see the duel between American Stacy Dragila, the world record holder, and Tatiana Georgieva of Australia in the inaugural women’s pole vault. We also see the joy of bronze medal winner Vala Flosadóttir, who becomes the only Icelandic woman to earn an Olympic medal. Meanwhile, we see the highlight of the Sydney Games for many Australians, the 400 meters victory of Cathy Freeman, who talks about fulfilling her dream by taking her victory lap carrying both the Australian flag and the flag of the Aboriginal people. In the women’s 800 meters, Maria Mutola, competing in her fourth Olympics, wins Mozambique’s only Olympic gold medal. The evening culminates in the thrilling last lap of the men’s 10,000 meters, as defending Olympic champion Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia outlasts defending silver medal winner Paul Tergat of Kenya to win by less than one-tenth of a second.
Other segments portray two stories in the decathlon. Chris Huffins of the United States improves his personal best at 1,500 meters by 12½ seconds to earn the bronze medal. Meanwhile, Erki Nool of Estonia survives an overruled foul on his last discus attempt to win the gold medal. A close-up shows Nool almost touching the edge of the rink with his shoe. Although it is not mentioned in the film, a 30-page analysis of the controversy, released several months before Sydney 2000: Stories of Olympic Glory, concluded that Nool did, indeed avoid a foul…by nine millimeters.
Greenspan uses excellent camera coverage of Australia’s victory over the United States in the men’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay. He gives us a lengthy section about Dutch cyclist Leontien Zijlaard’s battle with anorexia and her spectacular comeback to earn gold medals in cycling on both the track and the road. The equestrian three-day event is portrayed through the stories of Andrew Hoy of Australia and David O’Connor of the United States.
Greenspan presents a detailed accounting of the U.S. victory in the baseball tournament by focusing on coach Tommy Lasorda, whose microphone picks up a seemingly endless string of bleeped obscenities. Greenspan might have done better to have highlighted a few of the other team events. For example, the U.S. softball team ended their 112-game winning streak by losing three games in a row—to Japan, China and Australia—but came back to defeat the same three teams and win the tournament. In the inaugural women’s water polo tournament, the Australians defeated the United States in the final with a goal with 1.3 seconds to play. And by winning the women’s 4×100-meter relay, the Bahamas became the smallest nation (population: 270,000) to win a team event in any sport.