Australia welcomes Oprah to the Sydney Opera House
For a few hours, Sydney swapped opera for Oprah.
Thousands of shrieking, jubilant fans flocked to the Sydney Opera House on Tuesday to watch TV talk show queen Oprah Winfrey tape two star-studded shows for her final series.
There were celebrities, giveaways and screams-a-plenty as 6,000 Oprah devotees jammed the steps of the landmark arts center in Australia’s biggest city for the filming. The production marked the finale of her weeklong trip, accompanied by 302 U.S. audience members who took part in “Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure.”
Winfrey’s staffers whipped the already frenzied crowd into a tear-drenched state of hysteria before the host ascended the stage to the sounds of Men At Work’s “Down Under,” Australia’s unofficial anthem.
“HELLOOOO AUSTRALIAAAAA!” she bellowed as the audience’s roar reached a deafening pitch. “Now I understand why you call Australia ‘Oz,’ ‘cause we truly are at the end of the yellow brick road!”
Winfrey launched her 25th and final season of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in September by surprising her audience with her ultimate giveaway: an eight-day trip to Australia. For the past week, the lucky chosen have been traveling the continent — snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, surfing at Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach and exploring the rugged Outback.
Winfrey said she had long hoped to travel to Australia, and taking the audience with her made the experience even richer.
“Life is always better when you can share it,” she said before the taping.
Four shows from Winfrey’s Aussie adventure will screen in January and are expected to be watched by millions of people in 145 countries.
The state and federal governments have spent around $5 million on the trip, a price that has drawn criticism from some Australians. But officials and Winfrey herself insist the shows will bring many millions more in tourism publicity.
“It is immeasurable what four hours of a love festival about your country broadcast in 145 countries around the world can do,” Winfrey told reporters.
And a love festival it was, with Winfrey lavishing praise on her Australian hosts, the scenery and the citizens.
“You’re so darn friendly, you must go to friendly class!” she told the crowd, who were randomly selected from a pool of 350,000 hopefuls.
Her first guest was Australian actor Russell Crowe, who gave a nod to the surrounding sun-dappled harbor and said, “When you live in a city like this, it’s not that hard to be friendly.”
The nearby Harbour Bridge had been decorated with a giant “O” made of red lights — first illuminated during a fireworks display thrown in Winfrey’s honor earlier in her trip.
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