Bridge History: A Glimpse

Known to Sydneysiders as ‘The Coathanger’, the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge is the world’s largest (but not longest) steel arch bridge. Connecting the northern and southern shores of Sydney’s sparkling harbour, the Bridge is an instantly recognisable symbol of Australia.

The official opening day on Saturday 19 March 1932 drew huge crowds to the city and harbour foreshores, along with an impressive parade of decorated floats and marching bands through the streets and across the roadway. At a time of economic depression and hardship, these lively celebrations signalled a new beginning and hope for a brighter future. The NSW Premier, the Hon. John T Lang was to officially declare the Sydney Harbour Bridge open, but the ceremony did not go quite to plan. Prior to the official cutting by the Premier, proceedings were enlivened by Captain Francis De Groot of the paramilitary group, The New Guard, who slashed the ribbon prematurely with his sword. The incident caused both amusement and dismay on the day and has since become a part of Australian folklore.

After the pageant the public was allowed to walk across the roadway – an event not repeated until the 50th anniversary in 1982. In celebration, some members of the public unofficially began climbing up the arch – a preview to BridgeClimb, 66 years before it opened.

Today, the Bridge is the heart of Sydney. Beloved by the locals, it stands as a striking feature of Sydney’s famous skyline, whether from the ground or above. It is central to the city’s everyday festivities, famously as the centrepiece of Sydney’s annual New Year’s Eve fireworks spectacular.