Cathy Freeman’s Olympic victory etched into Australia’s DNA 20 years on

Cathy Freeman’s triumphant Olympic moment two decades ago officially became part of Australia’s genome Friday, with the nation’s archivists using synthetic DNA data storage to preserve the footage.

As footage of Freeman’s 400m dash to Olympic glory was projected onto the sails of Sydney Opera House, the National Film and Sound Archive(NFSA) celebrated the digitisation and successful storage of the video in synthetic DNA.

“Tonight our celebration is two-fold, the anniversary of that race… and we celebrate the awesome technological innovation,” NFSA chair Gabrielle Trainor said.

The announcement marked exactly 20 years since Freeman raced into sporting history by becoming the first Aboriginal person to win an individual gold medal.

The DNA storage works by converting data stored in a computer’s binary code of ones and zeros -— in this case digitised footage -— and transcribing it into DNA code made of four chemical rungs: adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine.

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Catherine Freeman’s golden Olympic moment to last thousands of years with new technology


To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Olympic Games Sydney 2000, the famous white exterior sails of the Sydney Opera House are becoming an enormous movie screen, showing Australian Catherine Freeman’s 400-metre gold medal win on 25 September 2000. She ran her final in 49.11 seconds, becoming the first Aboriginal athlete to win gold in an individual event at the Olympic Games.

The cinematic event celebrates not only Freeman’s historic achievement, but also its audiovisual preservation for future generations on an innovative, sustainable, long-term storage technology called “synthetic DNA”. This has been made possible thanks to a partnership between the Olympic Foundation for Culture and Heritage (OFCH) and the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA).

The synthetic DNA project is a world first, and Freeman’s 400-metre gold medal win is the first Australian video to be encoded.

The master recording of the historic race has been

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