Andrew Gaze was Australia's home flag bearer at Sydney 2000 ©Getty Images

Andrew Gaze, Australia's flag bearer at Sydney 2000, has insisted the world "needs the Olympics" in Tokyo next year.

Gaze, the captain of the Australian team exactly 20-years-ago, was prevented from attending the anniversary ceremony to relight the Olympic cauldron because of travel restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Speaking from his home in a virtual media conference, Gaze said: "The world needs an Olympic Games right now.

"For the two-and-a-half weeks of the Games we all just come together and appreciate humanity."

Gaze, a basketball player, appeared at five consecutive Olympics from 1984 and is certain that athletes will be able to make the necessary changes to compete a year later than originally planned in Tokyo.

"Most elite athletes train within an inch of their lives so there will have to be some adjustments but it is going to be fantastic next year in Tokyo," he said.

The 55-year-old recalled the uncertainty in the run-up to Sydney 20-years-ago which included worries about transport and problems with ticketing.

"There were always the doomsayers but we were blessed that social media wasn't that prevalent so it got us all on the same page," he said.

Andrew Gaze playing in his fifth Olympics at Sydney 2000 ©Getty Images
Andrew Gaze playing in his fifth Olympics at Sydney 2000 ©Getty Images

Gaze believes the Torch Relay was a turning point in changing attitudes towards the Games.

"I reckon when the Flame was being carried throughout the country, this was when we said we are going to park all the rubbish and negativity," he said.

"It was an incredibly proud time to be an Australian.

"We over achieved on a lot of people's expectations."

Two decades on from that electric opening night, Gaze still talks emotionally about the occasion.

"I think the thrill walking out in front of 110,000 all waving the Australian flag, it was an incredible experience which had a profound impact," he said.

"There was talk prior to the 2000 Olympics about me being a candidate, but I never really took it that seriously, but it was nice to be recognised as someone worthy of that honour.

"There's no doubt in my mind I was chosen because of longevity."