Melbourne Olympics remembered 60 years on

Helen Velissaris
(Australian Associated Press)


It’s been 60 years since the world’s eyes were fixed on Melbourne as the Olympics came to town.

The opening ceremony of the 1956 Olympics wowed audiences on November 22, with 103,000 packing the MCG to welcome the athletes.

Melbourne Cricket Club librarian David Studham says the spectacle was much more formal than what we’re used to now.

“You’ve got marching bands, you’ve got a religious blessing from the Anglican Archbishop, you’ve got your formal speeches,” he told AAP on Monday.

The ceremony was really just about the athletes marching into the stadium.

“And they marched – they were drilled in how to march,” Mr Studham said.

Melbourne was also not immune to the huge pressure of hosting the international event, with many wondering if stadiums and infrastructure would be ready or even cope.

“Even the opening ceremonies, one of my volunteers here has talked about the fact that she sat on a plank in the Olympic stand because the seating wasn’t finished,” Mr Studham said.

The home advantage also played a part in Australia’s results, especially in the pool.

With the likes of Dawn Fraser and Murray Rose, the country dominated.

“They won every single freestyle event in the mens and womens (categories),” Mr Studham said.

“We’ve never had a swimming team like it.”

In memory of the 60th anniversary, the MCG’s National Sport Museum and the MCC library are hosting exhibitions showcasing some of the period’s treasures.

The 1956 games cauldron, lit by Ron Clarke during the opening ceremony, is on display while gold medals from sprinter Betty Cuthbert and swimmer Murray Rose are at the National Musuem.

In the library, an organising committee report is on display, showing the signatures of most of the 1956 gold medallists.

Sports Minister John Eren says the 1956 Games hold a special place in Victoria’s history.

“Memories of the Games linger on today at locations all over Melbourne, at the National Sports Museum or above the Edward Flack Footbridge, where the iconic rings take pride of place,” he said in a statement.

The Games lasted 15 days and it was the first time they were was staged outside Europe or North America.


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