How an Australian Commoner Met and Married Her Prince Charming at a Bar During the Sydney Games
They've been to nearly every Olympics since striking gold in 2000
At the time, the future princess was known as Mary Donaldson, an Australian advertising executive with a resume boasting names like Young & Rubicam and DDB Needham (now DDB Worldwide). The duo met at the Slip Inn, a bar and restaurant in Sydney.
They reportedly talked all night, but just as in the film The Prince & Me, a fictionalized take on the romantic life of a Danish prince, Mary did not realize that Frederik – who simply introduced himself as “Fred” – was a prince until after their first meeting.
“The first time we met, we shook hands,” she said of their introduction. “I didn’t know he was the prince of Denmark. Half an hour later, someone came up to me and said, ‘Do you know who these people are?’ ”
Their relationship blossomed from there, and the two jetted back and forth between Australia and Denmark to visit one another (quite the commute!). It wasn’t until April 2003 that Frederik’s mother, Queen Margrethe, formally acknowledged the relationship in public. Turns out, her recognition of the couple was a sign of things to come: Six months later, their engagement was announced.
The road to becoming a royal didn’t come easy. Mary learned Danish, converted to the Lutheran Church and gave up her Australian citizenship. The couple tied the knot on May 14, 2004 in Copenhagen in a fairy tale ceremony. And the celebrations continued in Sydney! Banners were hung outside the bar where they first met to commemorate the happy occasion.
Today, Mary and Frederik have four children: Christian, 10, Isabella, 9, Vincent and Josephine, both 5.
And they’re not the only Scandinavian royal couple who found love at the Olympics: King Carl Gustaf of Sweden met his wife, Queen Silvia, back at the 1976 Munich Olympics, where she was working as a hostess and interpreter for the IOC.
For more of PEOPLE’s Olympic coverage, pick up our collector’s edition, The Best of the Games, on sale now.
Frederik and Mary have stayed true to their Olympic roots: Since that fateful meeting in Sydney, the couple has attended every summer Olympic Games – with the exception of Salt Lake City in 2002. They traveled to Athens in 2004 (just a few months after their wedding), Turin in 2006, Beijing in 2008, Vancouver in 2010, London in 2012 and Sochi in 2014. In 2009, Frederik was inducted into the International Olympic Committee.
The prince even had an Olympic dream of his own: He trained as a diver in his youth, and even debated trying out for Denmark’s Olympic sailing team in 1996.
• Want to keep up with the latest royals coverage? Click here to subscribe to the Royals Newsletter.
Though he never became an Olympian, Frederik says he has no regrets.
Princess Kate and Prince William’s Love Story in Less Than 2 Minutes
“If I dropped out of everything else I was doing, yes, if I had spent four years training for it, then I could have done it,” he said. “Instead I plunged into a different life so no, I don’t regret that.”
Although the opening ceremonies aren’t until Friday, the couple arrived in Rio earlier this week to participate in the 129th International Olympic Committee session. They attended the session’s opening ceremony on Monday, and are set to watch a number of the athletic events as well.
But the best part of their Olympic tradition? The royal couple gets to have a three-week-long date every four years to celebrate their love!
To learn more about all Olympic hopefuls, visit teamusa.0000org. The Rio Olympics begin Aug. 5 on NBC.