May 19

Hey Moms, Dads and all others who are following our fantastic program abroad,      

Today we actually got to sleep in a little bit and start our day at 9:00 AM.  We began by going to Centennial Park Cycles in Sydney Olympic Park to rent some bikes and give our feet a little break from all the walking we’ve been doing.  During the process we all were given helmets, and if you know me I have a pretty large noggin, which brought up the fact that apparently I have the largest head the Centennial Park Cycles employee had ever seen.  After a good laugh we all started the tour with Jim and Luke leading the way.  The park was absolutely beautiful and the weather turned itself around from the first two days with sunny 70 degree skies.  Biking was very entertaining and we had no accidents, despite everything on the bike being reversed (the back break was on the left instead of the right and to shift up you clicked the top gear shifter rather than the bottom, plus we had to ride on the left hand side).  Biking got us around quite quick and let us see many jaw-dropping sites including the ANZ stadium, the Brick Pit (way cooler than it sounds check out the picture below), and the Badu Mangroves, all of which are good examples of sustainability.      

To say that the park is sustainable is an understatement.  It utilizes pretty much every design and technology you can possibly think of to minimize the misuse of resources. For example, when we were biking through the Badu Mangroves we learned that the mangroves are salt tolerant plants and shrubs that help control erosion and help regulate the river ecosystem by influencing water chemistry and speed. They also provide habitat for fish and seafood species.      

Also while biking we were led up a spiral of rubbish, yes literally trash.  It was a mound roughly 40 feet high covered in grass and it had a bike trail that slowly spiraled up to the top with a wired-closed rock retaining wall lining the side of the trail.  This absolutely blew my mind, one because it is a mound of trash that is pleasing to the eye.  Two, because the rocks acted almost as a gutter for storm water to keep the path clear of runoff, and three, because the park had five of these “rubbish mounds” which made up the southern cross (the formation of stars on the Australian flag).       

While we on top of the mound, Jim and Luke explained basically how Sydney could make a park that would be great to get a bid for the 2000 Olympic games, but also how they planned ahead so they could actually use what they had built after the Olympics had ended.  For example, the stadium was built for about 100,000 people during the Olympics, but it was constructed so that when the games ended it could easily be “shrank” to fit 80,000, which is way more practical for the area. We also discussed the idea of ecoystem goods and services and examples of these services in the mangroves, wetlands, and design of the park.      

What I thought was really cool was that all the seats in the stadium were made of recycled pop bottles.  Also, there are two buildings for the media and press, which both were engineered to easily be able to be reused and are now hotels. Also, the Olympic village, where the athletes lived, was built as condos. We will be sleeping on the Olympic beds when we go to Adelaide.      

A few more ways the park was sustainable was how it uses a ton of glass in its buildings allowing in sunlight for heat and light.  The park also used permeable sidewalks in certain areas to minimize water run-off from the hard-scape surfaces.  The sidewalks let storm water seep through them preventing runoff, then the water flows underneath the sidewalk into the groundwater, which is processed by the local water treatment plant.  After a great day of biking, I was talking to Brendan, who is a former cross-country runner (AKA he is good at judging long distances), and he estimated that we biked at least eight miles.      

When we got back from Sydney Olympic Park, we were given the option to go to the Flames Opal store for an optional visit.  I actually didn’t attend (sorry mom!), but I heard great things and saw a few people come home with some bags (I’m not telling who in case it’s a surprise).  I even heard that there was a single opal at the store for $313,000!  After the flames opal visit we were hit with a bit of reality and had to write our first analytical reflection, which wasn’t too bad considering everything we’ve done so far has been so enjoyable.      

The Brick Pit (used for holding water for treatment)


Sydney Olympic Park's Beautiful winter


Our group biking through Sydney Olympic Park












All in all the day was a “Great success” for all of you Borat lovers and we all hope everything back in the states is well,      




  1. Sounds like a fantastic time you are all having in the land down under. I look forward to following your Aussie journey. Good Day Spartan Mates!

  2. What a city of diversity and excitement! Hope you are enjoying your journey and taking in as much as possible along with a little learning. Enjoy reading about your experiences in Australia.

  3. What a great day you had, the scenery there is just beautiful. On to your next adventure, how exciting!

  4. WOW. I am still laughing!!What a great blog and as Borat would say “great success!” All I can say is that I wish I was there. IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL THERE!! That bike ride sounded like so much fun, and I seriously cannot believe the interesting things you guys are learning!!
    Have so much fun and BE OPEN TO EVERYTHING!

  5. It looks and sounds like everyone is havng a great time, SOAK it up for you are on a unique trip.

  6. oh rudes! you make your mom laugh!!! (in spite of no opal jewel gifts!) I can just hear you say “great success” even in the helmut rentals! 🙂
    Love the day’s summary & pics and looking forward to painting one or two sometime! xoxoxo ps looks like we got your rain for a couple of days….oh wait….we’re behind you timewise….hmmmm….

  7. It all sounds so wonderful! We can’t wait to see more pics and hear all about it! Learn alot…Mother Earth needs all your young brains and energy! Mom

  8. Cool, I think visiting the Sydney Olympic Park was a great experience. Did you get a chance to visit the water reclamation plant? The issue of gray water and water reuse is a big issue in Australia in regards to the necessity to conserve water. I am also curious to know what the progress is of the desalinization plant in Sydney? Desalinization is a very debatable technology because of its energy usage and environmental impact but ability to produce fresh water. Do you guys get the sense that the olympic park was built just for show, or that Australia really is following these designs on a universal scale?

  9. Kevin,

    After viewing Sydney Olymipic Park, I like to think that it wan’t built for show. I do believe that the building of it could be used as a motivational tool for the citizens of Australia. When viewing the water treatment portion from the outside we could see right into the plant because of it’s glass windows. It appeared to be as if they were attempting to not hide anything. It also seems that a lot of care and thought went into every aspect of it the park’s creation. It’s my hope that citizens of Australia and even visitors like us were able to soak in the efforts put into the park and spread the same sustainable attitudes to other walks of life.

  10. Kevin,

    I also agree with what Ben has to say in regards to the Sydney Olympic Park being something much more than just beautiful scenery… I believe that S.O.P’s goal is to improve the environmental quality of Sydney and promote sustainability in many different aspects. For example, the pavement throughout the park is permeable which eliminates excess run-off and instead keeps the water in the pavement. The park also has qutie a few green tube things in the water that are made to rise up with the water in times of tides and prevent any “rubbish” from washing up onto shore, creating a clean public environment. The thousands of seats in Sydney Olympic Park are made out of recycled plastic, ensuring that all the material did not go to waste.

    Thanks for your question, Kevin!!

  11. Kevin,

    Another point to include is the Australian idea of taking an old “rubbish pit” and turning it into a hill that local residents can walk/ run/ bike for exercise. From this hill, we were able to not only get a good work-out but to see the beautiful scenery as well. It gave you a great view of the stadium, a children’s park while making us realize nature is all around us as we heard the frogs singing.

    I feel the idea of allowing residents to walk along wet lands and educating them with the water reclamation plant, shows the Aussie efforts to educate the public about being sustainable while helping them learn to appreciate nature.

    • It sounds like the United States, could use some of their ideas.
      Have you seen any cattle, or pig farms? If so, how do their operation set-ups compare to ours?

  12. Hi Carol

    We did visit a sheep and cattle farm a few days ago. It’s call Pelican Sheep Station and the owner gave us a lot of information on how he runs his business. The main difference here is that his sheep and cattle are grass fed, not grain fed like many in the US. He only resorts to grains when there is a huge drought and he can use the stored grains to feed his animals. Unfortunately, the current drought here has impacted how he feeds the animals. He is definitely trying to be sustainable but it is hard in these conditions. The animals here also have much more room to roam compared to in the US. His farm was 2300 acres and contained many paddocks for the animals to feed on. At this time, however, the owner should consider the low demand for both wool and lamb in order to be more sustainable and also to decrease generating unnecessary waste.
    Thank you so much for your question!

  13. Mom-

    You should have Dad look up the water recycling center on Sydney Olympic Park and see if he can incorporate any ideas into one like that in Michigan. As Ben said the building was completely transparent giving a feeling that the park had nothing to hide and wanted the public to know that there water was completely safe and clean. I think this idea could be brought back to the USA and would definitely be good on our river trail in Flushing.

  14. MOM! Great to see you enjoyed my post and are utilizing our blog. The weather here has been coming around and I hope you are enjoying some good Michigan/Grand Haven weather. We just got to Adelaide today and it is nothing short of AMAZING! Anyways I forgot to mention in my blog about how surreal the architecture was to the buildings in Sydney Olympic Park. The reason I wanted to mention this was because I took some quality photos of them that you might want to paint. What was also a bonus to such a unique and abstract look to the buildings was that most of the stadium or arena roofs were rigged up with a pulley/suspension system which allowed for virtually no supports inside any of the arenas or stadiums etc. This allows for no viewing obstructions inside therefore every seat is a good seat which I found to be quite a fascinating engineering feat.

  15. I can’t believe how cool this all must be and looking forward to all 8,000 of your pics!!!!! I will still be checking out your blog next week because aunt jill is bringing her macbook so YAY! I’ll still get to follow your fantastic journey!! Stay safe and I love you sooo much! Have a great third week! xoxo mom

  16. Hi Grandma (Carol)!

    We have not been on any hog or cattle farms yet but will be heading to a dairy farm on June 7 (my day to be day leader). In the past couple days we have visited a eucalyputs and honey bee farm but I can’t wait to learn more about how their cow and pig operations run/ are different!

    Its definitely interesting how they must store their grain as an emergency case senario in case their is a brush fire that destroys everything. At home we store it so we can use it later/ have it ground into feed as we need it, so this alone made me realize how they must worry about other factors that we never have to think of! Thanks for your question and I love YOU and Grandpa very much! ~Sarah

  17. The most interesting part to me about SOP was the design of the park and the surrounding city. They designed all of the buildings so that they could be used again as well as built many different housing options around the city to provide a “multi-use” environment. I wish there were more green spaces like SOP in my town as they provide a sense of community. Our spread out urban design does not foster community ties like the integrated community in and around SOP.

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