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Winfrey down under: Sydney 'Oprah' House

By Tracey Holmes, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Oprah Winfrey filmed two shows at the Sydney Opera House
  • More than 350,000 registered for 12,000 free tickets
  • The shows capped off a weeklong visit to Australia
  • Shows will air as part of Winfrey's last season on air

Sydney, Australia (CNN) -- "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi, oi, oi!"

Oprah Winfrey opened her Ultimate Australian Adventure show on the steps of the Sydney Opera House in front of thousands of spectators with the traditional Australian sports war cry. The audience responded in kind.

Sydney's central business district turned into a carnival of color and celebration for a day.

It began as a typical Sydney summer morning until the Oprah carnival blew in -- lights, celebrities and action. Those supporters not lucky enough to scoop one of the 12,000 free tickets offered for the filming of two 90-minute programs gathered near the Sydney Harbour to hear what they could and sneak glimpses of the daytime television queen.

"It's my birthday and I asked all my friends to nominate me for a ticket but I didn't get one," said Fran (who, like other fans CNN spoke with, took off work without permission and asked her surname not be used). "Doesn't matter, I caught a bus for an hour and a train for an hour just to see her."

Just engaged Shane and Angie made the trip because they both adore Oprah. "I've watched every episode since I was a little kid," Angie said. "I can't imagine not watching her any more!"

Winfrey's tour down under began as a dream when her long time partner Stedman Graham suggested he'd take her to Australia for her 50th birthday. That milestone came and went.

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"I think the leaflets are still bundled up in the kitchen somewhere," Winfrey joked. She made the dream a reality when she decided to do something special during her final season after 25 years on air.

In less than a week Winfrey has seen more of Australia than many Australians see in a lifetime.

She's hugged koalas in Queensland, enjoyed a beach barbeque on a Barrier Reef island, walked around the world's largest monolith, Uluru (also known as Ayer's Rock). Winfrey had a personal tour of Melbourne with Australia's first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, climbed to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and took to the helm of a yacht with her fellow skipper, Australian actor Russell Crowe.

"I made a decision before I landed to not be tired," Winfrey said. She'll sleep on the long flight home when she leaves Australia on Wednesday.

Joining Russell Crowe on the Oprah shows were fellow actors Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman (who sped in on a "flying fox" -- a gravity-line rope drop -- from the Opera House roof, slightly injuring himself in the process). Kidman's husband and singer, Keith Urban, and Bindi Irwin -- the daughter of the late "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin -- Bon Jovi and Jay-Z appeared on the program.

The Sydney Opera House was renamed "the Oprah House" for the day as Winfrey filmed two shows Tuesday. More than 350,000 Australians registered for the 12,000 tickets available.

Newspaper front pages, magazine covers, radio programs, television news bulletins and coffee shop conversations around the nation have been dominated by the Oprah frenzy for a week. Even those who aren't convinced of the American's iconic status at least have their opinions to debate -- in that regard, nobody has been left untouched by the Oprah aura.

Tourism Australia -- looking for a shot in the arm after a lackluster decade that began with 9/11 and ended with the global financial crisis --spent the last nine months working with Harpo Productions to make Winfrey's tour a reality.

"Some people question the five million dollars the government has put up along with our commercial partners for the Oprah shows but Harpo have invested another seven million to make it happen," says Andrew McEvoy, the Managing Director of Tourism Australia.

"Already, before the shows have even hit the air, we've seen the equivalent of more than 65 million dollars worth of free advertising."