Principal port and largest city of Australia and capital of the state of New South Wales; population (2001 est) 3,997,300. Founded in 1788, Sydney is situated on Port Jackson inlet on the southeast coast of Australia, and is built on hills around a number of bays and inlets that form an impressive natural harbour. Most of the maritime trade of Sydney is handled by Port Jackson on Sydney Harbour, one of the country's leading ports, though Botany Bay also has a specialist terminal for shipping petroleum products. The city is the home of most of the manufacturing industries in New South Wales, including oil refining, engineering, electronics, and the manufacture of scientific equipment, chemicals, clothing, and furniture. Notable architectural landmarks are the Harbour Bridge (which, with an arch of 503 m/1,650 ft, is one of the world's largest single-span bridges), the nearby Sydney Opera House, and Centre Point Tower. There are many parks, as well as coastal beaches ideal for surfing, such as Bondi and Manly. Sydney hosted the Olympic Games in the year 2000.
Sydney was founded in 1788 by Captain Arthur Phillip of the Royal Navy, who had been sent to Australia to reconnoitre a site for a penal colony. Landing first at Botany Bay 8 km/5 mi to the south but finding it unsuitable for settlement, Phillip sailed to Port Jackson, which he described as ‘the finest natural harbour in the world’ in a letter to the home secretary, Thomas Townshend Sydney, after whom the city was named. Sydney grew rapidly, especially during the gold rushes of the mid-19th century. Many of Sydney's streets follow the original wagon tracks laid down when the land was being prospected for gold.
Sydney is a major commercial, financial, and cultural centre, and an important transit point. Kingsford-Smith Airport outside the city is Australia's main international and domestic terminal; the city is the centre of the New South Wales railway system, and is served internally by a network of railways, buses and ferries.
Among its many cultural institutions, Sydney's Australian Museum (1827) is said to be one of the world's finest natural history museums. The famous Opera House at Bennelong Point resulted from an international competition, held in 1955 and won by the Danish architect Jørn Utzon. Its innovative design, incorporating white soaring, pointed roofs, mimics the sails of yachts in the harbour. The project attracted controversy and incurred escalating costs, and the building was finally completed in 1973. Centre Point Tower (305 m/1000 ft), in the central business district of the city, is the tallest building in the southern hemisphere; it was completed in 1980. The New South Wales Government House was constructed from 1837-1845; it overlooks Sydney Opera House and is currently used by the governor of New South Wales for official receptions. The Royal Botanic Gardens, adjacent to Sydney Harbour, were developed in the 1830s and 1840s and contain over one million specimens of plants from around the world. St Mary's Catholic Cathedral, to the northeast of Hyde Park, dates from 1928.
Kirribilli House has been used as a residence of the Australian prime minister since 1957. The house, which is on the north shore of the harbour facing the Opera House, was built in 1855, in Gothic revival style, and it was purchased by the Australian Government in 1920.
Sydney's Chinatown evolved in the 1850s during the gold rushes. It remains a focus for the Chinese community, with many restaurants and cinemas. Hyde Park, situated near the Australian Museum, contains a memorial to Australian soldiers who died during World War I.
The Queen Victoria Buildings were opened in 1898 and were used for various purposes including a market, concert hall, library, and municipal offices. They fell into disrepair and were threatened with demolition in the 1950s. However, they were redeveloped, and opened in 1986 as a shopping centre, in Byzantine style, characterized by numerous domes, stained-glass windows, and wood panelling.
The Rocks, to the west of the Opera House, and adjacent to the Circular Quay ferry and train terminal, was the site of the original settlement; the area was redeveloped during the 1980s, and is now a focus of cultural activity, with restaurants and galleries and many historic buildings. Sydney Observatory, built in 1858, is now a museum of astronomy, located in the Rocks area. Darling Harbour docklands area was also revitalized during the early 1990s and now includes gardens, hotels, museums, and shops.
The city's universities are Sydney University (1850); the University of New South Wales (1949); Macquarie University (1964); the University of Western Sydney (1989), and the University of Technology, Sydney (1990); the city is also the home of the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music.
The annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has become a major cultural event since the 1990s, attracting as many as 500,000 spectators to central Sydney.
The site attracted settlement by Europeans because of the safe entrance and sheltered anchorage offered by its deep-water harbour. Even at low tide, over half of the harbour is covered by some 9m/30 ft of water. Extending over a total area of 54 sq km/21 sq mi, the harbour is indented with numerous bays, especially to the south; extensive dock installations have developed along the 142 km/88 mi of shoreline. Sydney's two ports, at Sydney Harbour and Botany Bay, are the largest and most important in New South Wales and Australia as a whole.
Outside the commercial areas, the harbour is popular for recreational sailing. Sydney Harbour Bridge, a steel-arch construction, crosses the harbour in a single span of 503m/1,650 ft; it was completed in 1932, and carries a roadway, four railway lines, and two walkways.
The harbour was badly polluted by an oil spill from a docked Italian tanker in August 1999. The ship lost about 300,000 litres of light crude oil, out of which about 45,000 litres escaped into the harbour waters. The ship's owners undertook responsibility for the clean-up operation.
Sydney's climate is extremely favourable; temperatures vary by only 9°C/48°F from summer to winter, and the average annual rainfall is 1,194 mm/47 in.
A violent hailstorm that hit Sydney in April 1999 was the most expensive natural disaster in Australia's history, with damage estimated at more than A$1.4 billion.
Sydney is becoming increasingly multicultural, with a growing number of immigrants from southeast Asia, especially from Vietnam.
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