After Owens and Lewis came Jones. Marian Jones not only wanted the same gold medals as her male predecessors, the talented and personable American also had her sights on a gold in the 4x400 relay, an unprecedented total of five.
Cathy Freeman lit the Olympic flame, a symbol of the reconciliation between the native aboriginal inhabitants of Australia and the European settlers.
Under almost suffocating pressure, she strode to victory in the 400 metres to deliver a sports-mad nation the gold medal it had craved.
Jones was untouchable in the 100 and 200. But her rudimentary technique let her down in the long jump where she finished third behind German Heike Drechsler and her 4x100 relay team were also beaten into third place.
Sheer willpower propelled Jones through the third leg of the 4x400 to set the Americans up for the title and her overall medal haul was the most by a track and field athlete at a Games.
On the downside news emerged that her then husband C.J. Hunter, the 1999 world shot put champion, had tested positive four times for steroids during the year.
Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie just held off Kenya's five-times world cross-country champion Paul Tergat to win the 10,000 metres and Briton Steve Redgrave became the first rower to win gold medals at five consecutive Olympics.