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Inside Sydney

HARBOURING A HISTORY Think you know Sydney? You might have to guess again after peering through our rose-tinted glasses at fascinating facts for newbies and visitors:

  • British exploring legend James Cook first laid claim to Sydney in 1770, surprising the several thousand Eora Aboriginal tribespeople whose ancestors had been living in the area for the previous 40,000 years
  • The first fleet of 11 ships, under the command of Governor Arthur Phillip, landed at Botany Bay in 1788 with 700 convicts on board. Eight days later they chose another spot – Sydney Cove on Port Jackson – because of better soil quality, more consistent fresh water and to steer clear of the airport that would be built on its shores 132 years later
  • Sydney was originally slated to be called Albion, but Governor Phillip changed the name to recognise the role of British Home Secretary Thomas Townshend (Lord Sydney) in authorising the colony
  • On 26 January 1808, 20 years to the day after Sydney was founded, the fourth Governor of New South Wales, William Bligh, was deposed in the Rum Rebellion – the only successful armed takeover of government in Australia’s history. The poor Blighter had previously suffered mutiny at sea when Fletcher Christian and crew took over the Bounty in 1879!
  • Convict transportation to New South Wales was abolished in 1840, shortly after reaching its half century
  • Gold was discovered in Bathurst in 1851, the year of the first Americas Cup yacht race and the inaugural first-class cricket match in Australia
  • Sydney is bordered by the Blue Mountains to the west, the Hawkesbury River to the north, the increasingly hungry sharks in the Tasman Sea/Pacific Ocean to the east and the Southern Highlands in the south
  • Sydney Harbour, the largest natural harbour in the world, forms approximately a quarter of the city’s boundaries. Sydney is – not surprisingly – nicknamed the Harbour City
  • Sydney has an unofficial secondary nickname, the Emerald City, after a 1987 play by David Williamson (using the Wizard of Oz as inspiration) described Sydney as “the Emerald City of Oz”. We shouldn’t tell you Williams was making a point that Sydney is where people go expecting their dreams to be fulfilled, only to end up with superficial substitutes and broken dreams!
  • 8 workers fell to their deaths while building the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which opened in 1932
  • The Sydney Opera House, opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1973, has more than one million roof tiles
  • The 305m Sydney Tower, opened to the public in 1981, has 1504 stairs to the observation deck
  • Some 4.4 million people live in the Sydney region and 2.6 million visit annually
  • Inner Sydney is the most densely populated part of Australia, with 4,023 persons per square kilometre, compared to the country average of 2 people per square km – the world’s lowest population density
  • A Sydney resident, Newbie or not, is called a Sydneysider, not a Sydneyite, Sydneyer, Sydneyian or Sydneywidneywoowoo
  • Newbies abound because Sydney has the seventh largest percentage of foreign-born residents in the world, even more than London and way more than Kabul
  • Almost a third of Sydneysiders were born overseas, most hailing from the United Kingdom, China and New Zealand…with a swag of immigrants also arriving from Vietnam, Pakistan, Lebanon, Italy and India
  • Smith sits atop the list of the 20 most common Sydney surnames, followed by Lee and popular Vietnamese surname Nguyen. Also in the top echelon are Chen, Li, Wang, Zhang and Chan (all Chinese), plus Singh (Indian) and Kim (Korean). Knocked out of the top 20 in 2009 were Thompson, Anderson, Thomas, Walker and Ryan. King was also dethroned.
  • 30% of Sydneysiders speak a foreign language (not counting the Nu Zulundas who speak a quaint form of English)
  • 3 Sydney restaurants are rated in the world’s Top 100 – Tetsuya (17th), Quay (46th) and Pier (94th)
  • Sydney is located 33 degrees 55’ south of the equator, sharing a similar latitude to Buenos Aires and Cape Town in the Southern Hemisphere and Los Angeles in the north
  • The late Michael Jackson married Debbie Rowe in Sydney back in 1996
  • Sydney’s annual average of sunshine is almost seven hours a day. The average temperature is a balmy 22℃ in summer and almost 14℃ in winter with a healthy average annual rainfall of around 1220 millimetres (twice as much as Cape Town and four times more than Los Angeles)
  • Urban Sydney is formally divided into 642 suburbs and administered as 38 local government areas with the Lord Mayor as a figurehead
  • Sydney was the birthplace for the Big Day Out music festival in 1992, with the Violent Femmes the headline act and a supergroup in waiting – Nirvana - among the performers
  • Sydney hosted “the best Olympic Games ever” in 2000 – not least because John Farnham and Olivia Newton-John performed a duet “Dare To Dream” at the opening ceremony
  • Sydney has been at the heart of some of mankind’s most important inventions, including the electronic pacemaker in 1926. Pre-paid postage pushed the envelope for the first time in 1838, the technology powering xerox photocopying was developed at the University of Sydney in 1907 and Google Maps unfolded during the ‘noughties’ before the Sydney team ripped into unleashing Google Wave in 2009
  • Established in 1879, the Royal National Park south of the Sutherland shire is the second oldest park in the world, beaten only by Yellowstone in the USA, and (like the magnificent Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park in the north) is just 30km from the CBD
  • Sydney has four National Parks within its metropolitan area – Garigal, Lane Cove, Sydney Harbour and Botany Bay – as well as CBD greenery in the form of the 30 hectare Royal Botanic Gardens, Hyde Park, The Domain and the Chinese Garden of Friendship
  • Sydney is the heart of rugby league, providing nine of the 16 NRL teams – Canterbury Bulldogs, Sydney Roosters, St George-Illawarra Dragons, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Manly Sea Eagles, Cronulla Sharks, West Tigers, Parramatta Eels and Penrith Panthers (we won’t mention the Blues/Cockroaches in the annual State of Origin series)
  • Two West Tigers cheerleaders were in the 2009 Miss Universe Australia final
  • Sydneysiders also support the Sydney Swans, the sole Harbour City Aussie Rules side in the 16-strong AFL, the NSW Waratahs in rugby union’s Super 14, Sydney FC in football’s A-League, the Sydney Swifts in netball’s trans-Tasman ANZ Championship and the NSW Blues in cricket’s domestic competitions
  • The key stadium for the 2000 Olympics, ANZ Stadium in Homebush, is the largest capacity sports venue in Sydney with room for 83,500 spectators (down from 110,000 during the Olympic Games)
  • The iconic City2Surf – to be run for the 40th time in 2010 – is the largest timed road race in the world, with more than 60,000 entrants pounding the pavement from Hyde Park to Bondi Beach
  • The theme for the 2010 Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras is “History of the World” and the two week event will feature three major events on successive weekends from 21 February – Fair Day in Victoria Park, the massive Parade in Darlinghurst and the Party in multiple venues at Sydney’s Entertainment Quarter
  • Sydney is the country’s media hub, hosting the HQs for Australia’s three commercial television networks – 7, 9 and 10 – as well as the free-to-air ABC, SBS and subscriber based Foxtel
  • Sydney directors Michael Gracey and Peter Commins were behind the Evian roller-skating babies viral internet sensation
  • The Sydney Morning Herald is Australia’s oldest newspaper, providing fish & chip wrapping since 1831, just a few years earlier than breakfast supremo Alan Jones started his radio career
  • Sydney provided the greatest contribution to the record OZ Lotto ticket sales – $66.5 million of $209m (almost a third) on 30 June 2009 – but dipped out on the fairytale first prize as players on the Gold Coast and in Adelaide shared the unprecedented $106.5m
And now the truly useful stuff!

  • Emergency phone number: 000, referred to as Triple Zero, for police, ambulance and fire
  • Phone directory assistance: 1223 (all Australian numbers) & 1225 (International)
  • Phone international dial out: 0011 (then your country code & so on)
  • Public phones: 40-cent local calls (Sydney metropolitan area)
  • Currency: Australian dollar ($), worth 100 cents, with coins in denominations of 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents. Notes are $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. Anything else is counterfeit!
  • Electricity voltage: 230/250 volts
  • Units of measure: metric

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