The Sydney Olympic Park Athletic Centre is Sydney’s premier athletics venue. It’s name is abbreviated as SOPAC, by which it is often referred.
The venue was opened as the Sydney International Athletics Centre on 12 March 1994 at the Australian Championships by Betty Cuthbert, who the grandstand is named after. It has served as Sydney’s main athletics venue since.
The venue hosted the 1996 World Junior Championships and served as the warm-up track for the 2000 Olympic Games, being connected by a tunnel to Stadium Australia, where the Olympic competition was held.
In the lead up to the 2000 Olympic Games the venue hosted several high profile editions of the Sydney Grand Prix meet. Except for three years (2002-2004), the track has hosted Sydney’s annual high performance meets (variously, the Sydney Grand Prix, Sydney University Track Classic and Sydney Track Classic) as well as hosting the Australian Championships in 1994, 1995, 1996, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2013, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2021 and 2022.
Following the Olympic Games the name of the venue was changed to Sydney Olympic Park Athletic Centre.
On the promenade behind the grandstand is the Path of Champions, which honours NSW athletes who have won an Olympic or world title, or have held a world record. The 14 athletes features with bronze plaques are:
- Nick Winter
- Jack Metcalfe
- Marjorie Jackson
- Betty Cuthbert
- Fleur Mellor
- Marlene Mathews
- Albie Thomas
- Denis Wilson
- Betty Moore
- Bob Lay
- Maureen Caird
- Jennifer Lamy
- Kerry Saxby
- Jana Rawlinson
The venue is managed by the Sydney Olympic Park Authority, with the track regularly used for school carnivals and Athletics NSW’s competition, as well as being available (along with the venue’s warm up track) for training.
The venue finished third in Australia’s Favourite Athletics Track competition in 2021.
- Notable PerformancesNotable Performances:
- 10-13 March 1994: Australian Championships, with a national record in the 400m by Renee Poetschka with a run of 50.19 seconds.
- 2-5 March 1995: Australian Championships, with Great Britain's Colin Jackson setting an Australian Allcomers record of 13.32 seconds in the 110m hurdles. Melinda Gainsford was just outside Cathy Freeman's 200m national record of 22.25s, with a run of 22.33s into a 2.6 m/s headwind.
- 17 February 1996: Australian Allcomers record of 69.46m in the hammer throw by Russia's Olga Kuzenkova.
- 7-10 March 1996: Australian Championships, with a national record in the decathlon from Peter Winter with 8,084 points.
- 20-25 August 1996: World Junior Championships, with 141 countries represented. Winners included future Olympic champions Tereza Marinova, who set a world junior record in the triple jump with 14.62m; and Osleidys Menendez, who won the javelin in 60.96m. Championship records were set by Assefa Mezgebu (5000m, 13:35.30) and Mubarak Al-Nubi (400m hurdles, 49.07). Australia won 10 medals via Paul Burgess (pole vault gold in 5.35m), Justin Anlezark (shot put silver in 18.21m), Lauren Hewitt (200m silver in 23.32), Grant Cremer (800m bronze in 1:48.46), Nathan Deakes (10000m walk bronze in 41:11.44), 4x100m relay team of Peter Missingham, David Baxter, Paul Pearce and Paul Di Bella (bronze in 39.62), Clay Cross (shot put bronze in 17.69m), Steven Maddeo (javelin bronze in 73.88m), Rosemary Hayward (400m bronze in 53.28) and 4x400m relay team of Jennifer Marshall, Tamsyn Lewis, Josephine Fowley and Rosemary Hayward (bronze in 3:32.47).
- 27 January 1997: Optus Grand Prix, with a crowd of 12,000 people attending to see Carl Lewis as the headline act as part of an international farewell tour. Lewis finished 7th in the 100m.
- 28 February 1998: Sydney Track Tour, with Daniel Komen narrowly missing his own 2 miles world record by two-tenths of a second with a run of 7:58.91. Australian Allcomers records were set by Maurice Greene who ran 9.99 seconds for 100m and Jeff Hartwig, who cleared 5.90m in the pole vault. Now disgraced sprinter Marion Jones won the 200m in 21.98s.
- 6 February 1999: Australian Allcomers record in the hammer throw by Olga Kuzenkova with a throw of 69.46m
- 20 February 1999: Optus Grand Prix, with Emma George setting a world record in the pole vault with a leap of 4.60m. Frankie Fredericks set an Australian Allcomers record of 9.94 for 100m. Lee Troop ran 7:41.78 over 3000m to finish just short of the 7:41.60 national record held by Sean Creighton, finishing third behind Luke Kipkosegei (7:39.22). Colin Jackson won the 110m hurdles in 13.30s.
- 16 February 2001: Telstra Grand Prix, with a national record set in the 3000m by Craig Mottram in 7:41.35.
- 13 March 2021: Sydney Track Classic, with Nina Kennedy setting an Australian record in the pole vault with a jump of 4.82m.
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- FacilitiesTrack Length: 400mNumber of lanes - circular: 9Number of Lanes - Straight: 12Water Jump: Yes - externalLong Jump Pits: 4High Jump Fans: 2Pole Vault Pits: 4Discus Circles: 2Shot Put Circles: 4Javelin Runways: 2Hammer Circles: 1Lighting: YesSeating: 5,000 seated in covered grandstand