Accor Stadium toast athlete Cathy Freeman


Sydney's Accor stadium stand renamed Image: Accor Stadium, Roadrunnerz45, CC BY-SA 4.0

As part of a New South Wales (NSW) Government initiative to celebrate Australia’s greatest female athletes, the Eastern Grandstand at the Accor Stadium in Sydney Olympic Park (Australia) will now be officially known as the Cathy Freeman Stand.

‘NSW GOVERNMENT’ stated that still glowing from the recent FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™, the stadium has become synonymous with the female sporting legends.

The 83,500-capacity Stadium Australia (currently known as the Accor Stadium for sponsorship purposes) is a multipurpose stadium located in the Sydney Olympic Park suburb of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Cathy Freeman OAM (Medal of the Order) is an Aboriginal Australian former sprinter who specialized in the 400 meters event. Her personal best of 48.63 seconds currently ranks her as the eighth-fastest woman of all time, set while finishing second to Marie-José Pérec’s (retired French Olympic athlete) number-four time at the 1996 Olympics.

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ was the ninth edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the quadrennial international women’s football championship contested by the women’s national teams and organized by FIFA. The tournament, which took place from July 20th-August 20th, 2023, was jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand. It was the first FIFA Women’s World Cup with more than one host nation as well as the first World Cup to be held across multiple confederations as Australia is in the Asian confederation while New Zealand is in the Oceanian confederation. It was also the first Women’s World Cup to be held in the Southern Hemisphere.

‘NSW GOVERNMENT’ further stated that this significant honor to Cathy Freeman OAM comes as the result of a nomination process initiated by the Minns Government (the 100th Ministry of the Government of New South Wales) earlier this year.

Members of the public were invited to nominate a female sporting hero deserving of a grandstand named in her honor.

The initiative is delivering on an election commitment to acknowledge female athletes on the State’s grandstands, promoting women’s participation in sports. Freeman, a proud Kuku Yalanji (Aboriginal Australian people originating from the rainforest regions of Far North Queensland) and Birri Gubba (Aboriginal Australian people of the State of Queensland) woman, is one of Australia’s most celebrated athletes.

Her achievements include Olympic gold and silver medals, two world titles and four Commonwealth Games gold medals.

The stadium holds a special place in Freeman’s career and in the world sporting history.

It is where she lit the flame to mark the start of the 2000 Sydney Olympics on September 15th, 2000 – 23 years ago – and 10 nights later claimed individual gold in the 400m final.

That victory in front of a home crowd of 112,524 spectators saw her become the first Aboriginal Australian to win an individual Olympic gold medal.

That iconic gold medal run and victory lap carrying both the Aboriginal and Australian flags held the record of the most-watched television event in Australian history with 8.8 million live viewers, which were only topped in August with the Matildas’ (Australia women’s national football team) semifinal match against England at the Accor Stadium with a peak of 11.15 million viewers.

It was the 100th Olympic gold medal won by an Australian.

The newly renamed Cathy Freeman Stand is the main public seating area of the Accor Stadium seats nearly 30,000 spectators.

It is the closest to the major public transport links to the Sydney Olympic Park, is located adjacent to the Cathy Freeman Park and houses the athlete’s tunnel from which Freeman emerged in a high-tech full body suit for the 400m Olympic final.

The Cathy Freeman Stand is the second female athlete recognition announcement made by the Minns Government.

This follows the announcement that a giant mural has been commissioned to celebrate the Matildas’ historic success at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ tournament.

The permanent artwork, to be installed on the external façade of the Eastern side of the stadium, will serve as a permanent reminder of how the team’s run at the World Cup captured the imagination of the nation and inspired the next generation of female athletes.

In a true sign of Australia’s female sporting sisterhood, Freeman met with the Matildas in the days leading into their opening FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023™ match to share guidance and advice to the team.

Said Cathy Freeman OAM, “I am deeply honored and humbled by this recognition. This stadium and the Sydney Olympic Park hold a truly special place in my heart and that will never change. I hope that my story continues to inspire generations of girls and boys to chase their own dreams in sport and life. Like the rest of Australia, I cheered on the Matildas during the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ and I can’t wait to see future generations of Australian female athletes make their mark.”

Stated Chris Minns, Premier of New South Wales, “It’s about time we name a grandstand in NSW after a woman, and I can’t think of a better athlete than Cathy Freeman. I’m so proud to announce that Cathy Freeman will have a grandstand named after her at the home of Australia’s biggest sporting moments. Cathy’s a national sporting hero. Everybody remembers where they were when Cathy Freeman produced her historic 400m race to win gold for Australia at the Sydney Olympics. I want the next generation of young girls to watch sport at this stadium, looking up at the Cathy Freeman Stand, thinking about their own sporting dreams.”

Added Steve Kamper, Minister for Sport, “We have sculptures of Belinda Clark (Australian former cricketer), Marlene Mathews (retired Australian Olympic athlete) and Betty Cuthbert (former Australian athlete) at Moore Park, and now we have another deserving female sporting legend honored at Sydney’s Accor Stadium, NSW’s home of major events. This wonderful venue has just hosted the single biggest sporting event this year, the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup™, and it is fitting that the first name to adorn the stands here is a groundbreaking and inspirational Australian, Cathy Freeman. Cathy wowed crowds at this Sydney stadium and around the world with her athletic achievements and the symbolic lighting of the Olympic cauldron in 2000, and now her name will be emblazoned forever in that stadium to remind us all, always, of her achievements.”

Concluded Jodie Harrison, Minister for Women, “The renaming of the stand serves as a lasting tribute to Cathy Freeman’s exceptional career and her immense contributions to Australian sports. It also symbolizes the NSW Government’s commitment to recognizing and empowering female athletes, inspiring the future generations of women to excel in the world of sports.”

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