It took Australia’s 40 best forecasters to predict the clear skies and sunny weather for the Sydney Olympics closing ceremony, and one swarm of moths to put everyone in a flap.
- More than 40 forecasters and researchers tracked the weather for the Sydney Olympics
- A moth landed on Yvonne Kenny as she was about to sing the Olympic Hymn
- Forecasters feared the closing ceremony would be washed out
Minutes into the ceremony, Tony Bannister — the head forecaster for the Games — noticed a growing rain blip on the weather radar while in the Bureau of Meteorology office.
“It was stressful, we were holding our breaths,” Mr Bannister said.
“We were running from the radar to the window on the other side of the building and making dozens of phone calls. It was happening very fast.
“In our line of work every second counts,” Mr Bannister said.
Then the real culprit landed.
The massive rain cloud approaching the stadium was actually a swarm of millions of moths, attracted to Stadium Australia’s giant lights.
As legendary soprano Yvonne Kenny sang the Olympic Hymn in a dazzling purple gown, a ruffled bogong moth crash landed on her torso.
“There were six of us there with a little TV on in the background and we saw it,” Mr Bannister said.
“We couldn’t laugh, because at the time I was thinking it was going to be a raindrop, we’d be lined up outside like the Russians and shot.”
Mr Bannister, head of severe weather for Victoria in 2000, was invited north for the Olympics along with more than 40 forecasters and researchers from across Australia.
“We thought of ourselves as the A-Team,” he said.
But the radar ping stressed had the veteran weatherman.
“We had stuck our necks out and said it would be clear skies and this cool change would happen later in the evening,” he said.
“The radar was showing stuff that looks like drizzle, which is much worse than heavy rain because you get so much more soaked and it’s really annoying.”
As she performed, Ms Kenny saw the moths approaching.
“I’d prepared the dress, my hair, everything, the hymn. But you don’t have ultimate control,” she said from the UK.
“Life presents you with something unexpected and you have to take it in your stride and not take it too seriously.”
The swarm of moths fluttered on their way as the Olympic flag was lowered and passed on to Greece, and the weather team was finally able to exhale.
“It’s turned into a great story and it was a beaut night,” Mr Bannister said.