1956 Summer Olympics

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Games of the XVI Olympiad
1956 Summer Olympics logo.png
Host cityMelbourne, Australia
Nations participating72
Athletes participating3,314
(2,938 men, 376 women)
Events151 in 17 sports
Opening ceremony22 November
Closing ceremony8 December
Officially opened byPrince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Athlete's OathJohn Landy
Olympic TorchRon Clarke
StadiumMelbourne Cricket Ground
 
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Games of the XVI Olympiad
1956 Summer Olympics logo.png
Host cityMelbourne, Australia
Nations participating72
Athletes participating3,314
(2,938 men, 376 women)
Events151 in 17 sports
Opening ceremony22 November
Closing ceremony8 December
Officially opened byPrince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Athlete's OathJohn Landy
Olympic TorchRon Clarke
StadiumMelbourne Cricket Ground

The 1956 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XVI Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was held in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, in 1956, apart from the equestrian events, which were held five months earlier in Stockholm, Sweden. Equestrian events could not be held in Australia due to quarantine regulations. This was the second Olympics not to be held entirely in one country, the first being the 1920 Summer Olympics. The 1956 Games were the first to be staged in the Southern Hemisphere, as well as the first to be held outside Europe and North America.

Host city selection[edit]

Melbourne was selected as the host city over bids from Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Montreal and six American cities on 28 April 1949, at the 43rd IOC Session in Rome, Italy.[1]

1956 Summer Olympics bidding results[2]
CityCountryRound 1Round 2Round 3Round 4
Melbourne Australia14181921
Buenos Aires Argentina9121320
Los Angeles United States545
Detroit United States244
Mexico City Mexico93
Chicago United States1
Minneapolis United States1
Philadelphia United States1
San Francisco United States0
Montreal Canada0

Prelude[edit]

Many members of the IOC were skeptical about Melbourne as an appropriate site. Its location in the Southern Hemisphere was a major concern, since the reversal of seasons would mean the Games were held during the northern winter. This was thought likely to inconvenience athletes from the Northern Hemisphere, who were accustomed to resting during their winter.

Melbourne was selected, in 1949, to host the 1956 Olympics by a one-vote margin. The first sign of trouble was the revelation that Australian equine quarantine would prevent the country from hosting the equestrian events. Stockholm was selected as the alternative site, so equestrian competition began on 10 June, five and a half months before the rest of the Olympic games were to open, half a world away.

The problems of the Melbourne Games were compounded by bickering over financing among Australian politicians. Faced with a housing shortage, the Premier of Victoria refused to allocate money for the Olympic Village (eventually sited in Heidelberg West), and the country's Prime Minister barred the use of federal funds.

At one point, IOC President Avery Brundage suggested that Rome, which was to host the 1960 Games, was so far ahead of Melbourne in preparations that it might be ready as a replacement site in 1956.

As late as April 1955, Brundage was still doubtful about Melbourne, and was not satisfied by an inspection trip to the city. Construction was well under way by then, thanks to a $4.5 million federal loan to Victoria, but it was behind schedule. He still held out the possibility that Rome might have to step in.

By the beginning of 1956, though, it was obvious that Melbourne would be ready for the Olympics.[3]

Participation and boycotts[edit]

Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon announced that they would not participate in the Olympics in response to the Suez Crisis when Egypt was invaded by Israel, the United Kingdom, and France after Egypt nationalised the Suez canal. Meanwhile, in 1956 the Soviet Union crushed the Hungarian Revolution, and the Soviet presence at the Games led to the withdrawal of the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland.

Less than two weeks before the 22 November opening ceremony, (the People's Republic of) China chose to boycott the event because Taiwan, officially the Republic of China had been allowed to compete.

Although the number of countries participating (67) was almost the same as in 1952 (69), the number of athletes competing dropped sharply, from 4,925 to 3,342. (This figure does not include the 158 athletes from 29 countries who took part in the Stockholm equestrian competition.)

Events[edit]

Once underway, the Games unfolded smoothly, and became known as the "Friendly Games". Betty Cuthbert, an 18-year-old from Sydney, won the 100- and 200-metre dashes and ran a great final leg in the 4 x 100-metre relay to overcome Great Britain's lead and claim her third gold medal. The veteran Shirley Strickland repeated in the 80-metre hurdles and also ran on the relay team, running her career total to seven, three golds, a silver, and three bronze medals.

But it was in swimming that the Australians really shone. They won all of the freestyle races, men's and women's, and collected a total of eight gold, four silver and two bronze medals. Murray Rose became the first male swimmer to win two freestyle events since Johnny Weissmuller in 1924, while Dawn Fraser won gold medals in the 100-metre freestyle and as the leadoff swimmer on the 4 x 100-metre relay team.

Controversial judging prevented the United States from winning all four diving events, which had become almost customary. Pat McCormick again took gold medals in both the springboard and the platform, and Bob Clotworthy won the men's springboard. However, Gary Tobian was given unusually low scores by the Soviet and Hungarian judges, and he finished second by just .03 to Mexico's Joaquín Capilla in the platform event.

United States men dominated track and field. They not only won 15 of 24 events, they swept four of them and finished first and second in five others. Bobby Morrow led the way with gold medals in the 100- and 200-metre dashes and the 4 x 100-metre relay. Tom Courtney barely overtook Great Britain's Derek Johnson in the 800-metre run, then collapsed from the exertion and needed medical attention.

Vladimir Kuts of the Soviet Union ran away from his competition in the 5,000- and 10,000-metre runs, while Ireland's Ron Delany ran a brilliant 53.8 over the last 400 metres to win the 1,500-metre run, in which favourite John Landy of Australia finished third.

There was a major upset, marred briefly by controversy, in the 3,000-metre steeplechase. Little-known Chris Brasher of Great Britain finished well ahead of the field, but judges announced that he was disqualified for interfering with Norway's Ernst Larsen, and they anointed Sándor Rozsnyói of Hungary as the winner. Brasher's appeal was supported by Larsen, Rozsnyói, and fourth-place finisher Heinz Laufer of Germany. The decision was reversed and Brasher became the first Briton to win a gold medal in track and field since 1936.

Only two world records were set in track and field. Mildred McDaniel, the first American woman to win gold in the sport, set a high jump record of 5 feet 9 14 inches (1.759 m) and Egil Danielsen of Norway overcame a troublesome wind with a remarkable javelin throw of 281 feet 2 12 inches (85.712 m).

Throughout the Olympics, Hungarian athletes were cheered by fans from Australia and other countries. Many of them gathered in the boxing arena when thirty-year-old Laszlo Papp of Hungary won his third gold medal by beating José Torres for the light-middleweight championship.

A few days later, the crowd was with the Hungarian water polo team in its match against the Soviet Union which became known as the Blood In The Water match. The game became rough and, when a Hungarian was forced to leave the pool with blood streaming from a cut over his eye, a riot almost broke out. But police restored order and the game was called early, with Hungary leading 4–0. The Hungarians went on to win the gold medal.

Despite the international tensions of 1956 – or perhaps because of them – a young Melburnian, John Ian Wing, came up with a new idea for the closing ceremony. Instead of marching as teams, behind their national flags, the athletes mingled with one another as they paraded into and around the arena for a final appearance before the spectators. That began an Olympic tradition that has been followed ever since.[4]

Highlights[edit]

During the Games there will be only one nation. War, politics and nationalities will be forgotten. What more could anybody want if the world could be made one nation.
—Extract from a letter by John Ian Wing to the Olympic organisers, 1956

Olympic Flame Relay[edit]

Torch Relay monument, Cairns

The Olympic Flame was relayed to Melbourne after being lit at Olympia on 2 November 1956.

When the Olympic Flame was being carried to Sydney, an Australian veterinary student named Barry Larkin carried a fake Olympic Flame and fooled the mayor of Sydney.[5]

Medals awarded[edit]

The 1956 Summer Olympic programme featured 151 events[6] in the following 17 sports:

Demonstration sports[edit]

Venues[edit]

Ballarat
Melbourne
Stockholm

Participating National Olympic Committees[edit]

Participants
Number of athletes per country

A total of 67 nations competed in Melbourne. Ethiopia, Fiji, Kenya, Liberia, Federation of Malaya, North Borneo (modern-day Sabah of Malaysia), and Uganda made their Olympic debut. Athletes from East Germany and West Germany competed together as the United Team of Germany, an arrangement that would last until 1968.

For the first time the team of Republic of China effectively represented only Taiwan.

Participating National Olympic Committees

Five nations competed in the equestrian events in Stockholm, but did not attend the Games in Melbourne:

This was the Olympic debut for Cambodia. Egypt did not compete in Melbourne due to the Suez Crisis, whilst Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland all boycotted the Australian event in protest at the Soviet invasion of Hungary.[7]

Medal count[edit]

These are the top ten nations that won medals at the 1956 Games.

 Rank NationGoldSilverBronzeTotal
1 Soviet Union37293298
2 United States32251774
3 Australia1381435
4 Hungary910726
5 Italy88925
6 Sweden85619
7 Germany613726
8 Great Britain671124
9 Romania53513
10 Japan410519
Key

   *   Host nation (Australia)

The heritage registered former Olympic Pool (now Westpac Centre) from the Yarra River.

Buildings from the Olympics[edit]

The Olympics left Melbourne with some landmark buildings. The Olympic Stand at the Melbourne Cricket Ground was demolished in 2004. However, the former Olympic Pool remains as part of the Westpac Centre at the Olympic Park complex. The former athlete's village in Heidelberg West, Victoria remains as public housing, and the small stadium there is home of local Association Football team Heidelberg United FC. Certain buildings already established by the time the Melbourne Olympics began (such as St Kilda Town Hall, where the fencing events were held, and West Melbourne Stadium [subsequently renamed Festival Hall]) still stand.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Ioc Vote History". Aldaver.com. Retrieved 2012-08-24. 
  2. ^ "Past Olympic host city election results". GamesBids. Archived from the original on 17 March 2011. Retrieved 17 March 2011. 
  3. ^ Wendy Lewis, Simon Balderstone and John Bowan (2006). Events That Shaped Australia. New Holland. pp. 212–217. ISBN 978-1-74110-492-9. 
  4. ^ Text of John Ian Wing's letter, page found 28 June 2011.
  5. ^ Turpin, Adrian (8 August 2004). "Olympics Special: The Lost Olympians (Page 1)". Find Articles, originally The Independent on Sunday. Archived from the original on 13 April 2008. Retrieved 6 April 2008. 
  6. ^ The IOC site for the 1956 Olympic Games gives figure of 145 events, however actually there was 151 (145 events in Melbourne and 6 equestrian events in Stockholm).
  7. ^ 1956 Games (see All Facts section) olympic.org

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Helsinki
Summer Olympic Games
Melbourne

XVI Olympiad (1956)
Succeeded by
Rome