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SYDNEY — Oprah Winfrey wrapped her Ultimate Australian Adventure at the Sydney Opera House Tuesday, filming over three hours of star-studded television, opening the morning shows with a loud “Look at you, Australia. Aussie Aussie Aussie” and finishing the day saying “I hope the world comes down under to experience what I’ve experienced.”
She handed out over $1.25 million in gifts to needy recipients, diamond and pearl necklaces to the 12,000 audience members during the day, a black eye to guest Hugh Jackman and described the four shows as a love fest about Australia.
Ahead of the tapings, Winfrey and the CEOs of Qantas and Tourism Australia, the trip’s major backers, and Australian tourism minister Martin Ferguson gave their report card on the effect of Winfrey’s week-long visit to date.
Winfrey said its success will be “immeasurable” while Ferguson estimated that the tour has already generated over AUS$85 million ($83.3 million) worth of media exposure so far: $71 million of that in Australia and $14 million in the U.S. ahead of the airing of four episodes of the shows in January.
Other headline figures for the trip: Qantas has flown Winfrey’s 302 guests and 199 productions crew on 88 different flights to and within Australia, as well as 18 tons of equipment flown on from Chicago; 25 locations in Australia were visited by the 302 adventurers, 200 of whom had never been out of the United States before;150 tourism operators have provided the experiences; 200 Harpo crew and an additional 200 Australian crew have put the four programs together.
It was also revealed that Harpo Productions and its commercial partners have spent $7 million on the tour in addition to the $4.9 million invested by Tourism Australia, Qantas and the state tourism bodies. Most of that money has been spent in Australia.
“Thank you for entrusting us with your audience. Ultimate viewer meets dream destination and it’s been a great match,” Tourism Australia chief Andrew McEvoy said.
“It is immeasurable what a four-hour love festival for your country broadcast in 145 countries can do,” Winfrey said.
“I think this has been a win-win for every partner involved,” she added.
Winfrey said she has appointed herself an unofficial ambassador for Australia and called the country “magical” and “wondrous.”
“The experience has been unparalleled, its exceeded every expectation, we’ve had for being embraced and supported and feeling the love of the country,” she said.
When asked what her enduring memory was she quipped, “I went into the ugly cry with the fireworks and when that O came over the bridge. I said I have an O on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. That was pretty special.”
After the serious stuff it was time to get down to the business of entertainment and under a hot Sydney summer sun, Winfrey gave the 6,000-strong audience at the two tapings that and more.
The morning taping, which will be the third show dedicated to Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure, was vintage Oprah with an Aussie twist.
Russell Crowe walked from his harborside home to the Opera House to join Winfrey and showed off his South Sydney Rabbitohs Rugby League team. Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin‘s widow Terri, and her kids — Bob, 6, in his first public appearance, and Bindi, now 12, had an emotional reunion with Winfrey; hip-hop star Jay-Z paid a surprise visit to Canterbury Boys High School, an underprivileged Sydney school; and Winfrey revealed that sponsors Microsoft and HP were donating $1 million worth of laptops to all the students and teachers at the school and will help upgrade the schools library and music rooms.
She also gave $250,000 to Kristian Anderson and his family so they can spend time as a family while he undergoes treatment for cancer. Bon Jovi wrapped the show.
Four hours later another 6,000-strong audience hit the Sydney Opera House forecourt for a star-studded final episode featuring Bono, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, Olivia Newton-John and Hugh Jackman, who provided the major drama of the day.
The Wolverine star injured his right eye after crashing into lighting rigging during an aerial stunt. Jackman admitted afterwards he’d failed to use the brakes on a flying fox that connected the roof of the Sydney Opera House to the stage.
Winfrey suspended filming while he was treated by paramedics offstage, but he was able to finish his segment, albeit with a black eye. The injury was said to be minor.
Jackman later returned for the final production number, leading compatriats Urban, Newton-John, Kidman and Crowe singing Peter Allen’s I Still Call Australia Home with the Australian Children’s Choir.
Two additional programs to those made Tuesday will be produced, detailing the Ultimate Adventurers’ travels across the country, as well as Winfrey’s journey from the Great Barrier reef to Uluru, Melbourne and Sydney.
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