Australia wheeled out some of their all-time Olympic heroes for the Millennium Games and also provided two of the stars of the modern era.
Betty Cuthbert, Shirley Strickland, Dawn Fraser and Shane Gould were among the competitors who helped celebrate 100 years of the involvement of women in Games events, before Cathy Freeman lit the flame.
Freeman also brought the host nation to its feet with victory in the 400 metres, improving on her silver in Atlanta four years previously. It was Australia's only athletics gold medal, but they enjoyed greater success in the pool, with Ian Thorpe leading the way and earning the nickname 'Thorpedo'.
Aged just 17, Thorpe announced his arrival on the Olympic scene by winning three gold medals and two silvers. Only Russian gymnast Alexei Nemov claimed more medals at these Games than Thorpe and he managed only two golds.
There were also three golds in the pool for Americans Lenny Krayzelburg and Jenny Thompson, as well as Dutch swimmer Inge de Bruijn, whose compatriot Pieter van den Hoogenband completed the 100m-200m freestyle double, pulling off a shock at the longer distance when he beat Thorpe and set a world-record time.
Another star of the Dutch team was Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel, who became the most successful women's cyclist at a single Games with gold medals in the women's time trial, road race and sprint, and a silver in the points race.
In men's cycling there was a bronze medal for one of the legends of the sport, Lance Armstrong, who made it onto the podium for the men's individual time trial at his third Olympics.
On the athletics track there was a repeat success at 400m for Michael Johnson, although the American was denied a second gold medal years later when the 4x400m relay team was disqualified after two of Johnson's team-mates belatedly admitted drugs offences.
Fellow American sprinter Marion Jones captured three gold medals and two bronzes, but she also lost these when she admitted drug use later in her career.
Haile Gebrselassie notched a second successive Olympic 10,000m victory, although that was only part of the story for Ethiopia's outstanding long-distance athletes, who also collected gold courtesy of Gezahgne Abera in the marathon and Million Wolde in the 5,000m, while Derartu Tulu took the women's 10,000m.
Among the debut sports, South Korea shone with three gold medals in taekwondo, while Russia were the men's and women's trampoline champions.
Denise Lewis won heptathlon gold for BritainWomen were admitted into the modern pentathlon for the first time, with gold and bronze going respectively to Great Britain's Steph Cook and Kate Allenby, and weightlifting, in which China landed four of the seven gold medals on offer.
To the delight of the home crowds, Australia won the inaugural women's water polo event, but the cheers were even louder for another aquatics participant, who set new standards for glorious failure.
Eric Moussambani, of Equatorial Guinea, actually won his heat in the men's 100m freestyle, but that was only because his two opponents were disqualified. Moussambani still had to complete the swim and he did it in the slowest time recorded for the distance of one minute 52.72 seconds.
A rather more successful Olympian, Great Britain oarsman Steve Redgrave, finally called it a day in Sydney, after triumphing in the coxless fours to register his fifth gold medal and sixth medal in all.
Top three performances
1-Steve Redgrave (GBR) - Cemented his place as the greatest rower of all time by winning a fifth consecutive Olympic title.
2-Cathy Freeman (AUS) - Signalled the reconciliation of the native aboriginals with the European settlers by lighting the Olympic flame, then won 400m gold under intense pressure.
3-Ian Thorpe (AUS) - The Thorpedo added to the Aussie feel-good factor with three gold medals and two silvers.
Did you know?
Sydney beat Beijing 45-43 in the final round of bid voting, having trailed in each of the first three rounds.
Eric 'The Eel' Moussambani became one the stars of the game, winning his 100m freestyle heat in 1:52.72 - over a minute outside the world record - after both his rivals false started. His time was an Equatoguinean national record.
An unofficial mascot, Fatso the Fat-Arsed Wombat, was promoted by TV comedians Roy and HG. Fatso became so popular he appeared on the podium with several Australian medal winners, cropped up on a postage stamp, and a statue of him now stands outside the Olympic Stadium.