From factories to the fast-lane: How the Sydney Olympics transformed Homebush
September 06, 2020 07:23:57
It was once the site of rolling fields, a slaughterhouse and a brick factory that built half of Sydney.
But by 2000 almost everything about the area now called Sydney Olympic Park at Homebush had changed.
The Sydney Olympic Games transformed an industrial zone into a precinct to hold the world’s attention.
But let’s look back at Homebush before it was world famous.
The most notable institutions that operated in the area for most of last century were the state-owned brickworks and abattoir, both closed in 1988.
Today, there are only a few clues left in the area pointing to the past but the brickworks pit is still there and easily spotted.
“The saying is they were the bricks that built Sydney,” said Sydney Olympic Park ecologist Jennifer O’Meara.
“So about 3 billion bricks were put together here, baked, and then sent out to build many suburbs in Sydney.”
The brick pit, as it is now known, has even been used as a movie set, but its main purpose now is a sanctuary for wildlife, and it is mostly closed to the public.
“So the brick pit these days is an amazing refuge for a number of threatened and endangered species,” Ms O’Meara said.
In the lead-up to Sydney 2000, there was a plan to flood the brick pit and make it a harbour.
But that idea was thrown out when the endangered green and golden bell frog was found there.
“In 1992, we’d been told the Olympics were coming and there was all this activity and ideas about what to do with the space,” Ms O’Meara said.
“At the same time, the bell frog was found on site, and the brick pit was seen as a secure population within Sydney Olympic Park, so it was isolated and contained, and remains the brick pit still.”
Evidence of the Homebush Abattoir is harder to spot, as only its administration building is still standing.
Other areas, including its saleyards, were demolished to make way for facilities like the Sydney Showgrounds and sporting arenas.
And the area continues to evolve.
Many other Olympic host cities, such as Athens and Rio, have fallen into the trap of letting facilities fall into disrepair after the games.
In contrast, Sydney’s nine world-class sporting and entertainment facilities are still regularly used.
It has also evolved into a residential and business hub that contributes more than $1 billion annually to the NSW economy.
“We’ve got a daily community of over 25,000 residents, workers, and students,” Sydney Olympic Park Authority CEO Sam Romaniuk said.
And the NSW Government wants even more growth over the next 10 years.
There are plans for a new school, more retail and entertainment, 2,500 more jobs and more parks.
And Olympic Park will become far better connected when the Sydney West Metro and Paramatta Light Rail are finished.
Richard Cashman is a historian with a special interest in Olympic Park and said the vision for the area had come to fruition.
“The Sydney authorities wanted it to be a place where people lived and worked and there was a lot of activity and they succeeded in that,” he said.