Sydney's iconic Harbour Bridge turns 90 as city reflects on its controversial and star studded life

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Sydney is celebrating the 90th anniversary of the unveiling of the Harbour Bridge, which has since hosted millions of cars, countless climbers, fireworks displays and a historically defining reconciliation walk.

Numerous celebrities have climbed the Coat hanger in its star-studded life-time, including Oprah Winfrey, Matt Damon, Kylie Minogue, Robert De Niro and Cate Blanchett.

Royals Prince Harry and Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark have also tested their altitudinal aptitude on the iconic steel arch.

Pictured: David Hasselhoff proposes to girlfriend Hayley Roberts on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Pictured: David Hasselhoff proposes to girlfriend Hayley Roberts on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Pictured: Royal Prince Harry and Prime Minister Scott Morrison climbed the Harbour Bridge with Invictus Games Representatives in 2018

Pictured: Royal Prince Harry and Prime Minister Scott Morrison climbed the Harbour Bridge with Invictus Games Representatives in 2018

NSW Premier Jack Lang was to open the bridge by cutting a ceremonial ribbon with a pair of scissors before a boisterous gathering of 300,000 Sydneysiders at the height of the Great Depression on March 19, 1932.

However Francis de Groot had other ideas.

The former cavalry officer and member of the right-wing New Guard militia, dashed past Lang on a racehorse as the clock struck 10, lunged forward and slashed the ribbon with a sword in one cinematic fell swoop.

Pictured: Philadelphian cruise liner SS Malolo passes by the partially constructed Sydney Harbour bridge in 1930

Pictured: Philadelphian cruise liner SS Malolo passes by the partially constructed Sydney Harbour bridge in 1930  

Pictured: Intended ribbon-cutter and NSW premier Jack Lang and his wife at the bridge opening ceremony

Pictured: Intended ribbon-cutter and NSW premier Jack Lang and his wife at the bridge opening ceremony

Pictured: Crowds crossing the Harbour Bridge for the opening celebration in March, 1932

Pictured: Crowds crossing the Harbour Bridge for the opening celebration in March, 1932

Historian Ian Hoskins, who wrote an award-winning book about Sydney Harbour, told AAP the bridge soon became a focal point for Australia’s place in the world as a modern nation.

“The Sydney Harbour Bridge not only became a symbol of Sydney, it became something people recognised as Australian very quickly,” he said.

“It symbolised a new modern Australia. It said, ‘look what we can do, we built this astonishing bridge in only eight years’.”

From engineering marvel to national icon the Sydney Harbour Bridge remains an internationally recognised landmark of Australia

From engineering marvel to national icon the Sydney Harbour Bridge remains an internationally recognised landmark of Australia

The architectural feat involved 40,000 tonnes of fabricated steel spanning 500 metres minus a middle support pylon.

Dr Hoskins said the massive Bridge Walk for Reconciliation in 2000 when 250,000 people rallied for a new social contract with Indigenous Australians was not only “visually appealing” but a potent political moment.

“A bridge symbolises literally spanning a gap and joining two sides, two sides of an argument, two sides of an issue. So the bridge is a symbol of reconciliation in many respects,” he said.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge has long been home to the world's most impressive NYE fireworks display

The Sydney Harbour Bridge has long been home to the world’s most impressive NYE fireworks display

Pictured: Sunset behind the Harbour Bridge in the lead up to the 2000 Sydney Olympics

Pictured: Sunset behind the Harbour Bridge in the lead up to the 2000 Sydney Olympics

Farmer and war veteran Ian Litchfield, 95, said he might bring out a bottle of Glenfiddich scotch while watching the anniversary celebrations from Hampton in central western NSW on Saturday.

The tipple will be to honour his father, one of the lead engineers who worked on the bridge.

“He was (bridge proponent John Bradfield’s) chief supervising engineer for the fabrication and erection of the steelwork,” Mr Litchfield told AAP.

Through thick and thin: The Harbour Bridge has been a cultural icon for nine decades, here pictured in a dust cloud blown over Sydney in 2009

Through thick and thin: The Harbour Bridge has been a cultural icon for nine decades, here pictured in a dust cloud blown over Sydney in 2009

Pictured: A poster promoting the opening ceremony of the Sydney Harbour Bridge reads'AUSTRALIA IS CALLING'

Pictured: A poster promoting the opening ceremony of the Sydney Harbour Bridge reads ‘AUSTRALIA IS CALLING’

“We were brought up with the bridge. It used to be discussed at the dinner table when we were young.

“I’m very proud of my father.”

Mr Litchfield does not remember walking across the mighty structure with his dad as a five-year-old but the photographs of the occasion are precious to him.

What he does recall vividly is bursting with pride when he later came to Sydney and crossed the harbour by bus to attend reunions with mates who served on HMAS Bataan in the Philippines during World War II.

“I always used to enjoy it going across. I tried to get in the back part of the bus so you’d be higher up so you can see down the harbour,” he said.

Their last gathering was about four years ago. Mr Litchfield is the only one still walking

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