1956 Summer Olympics

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Games of the XVI Olympiad

Host city Melbourne, Australia
Stockholm, Sweden
Nations participating 67
Athletes participating 3,184
(2,813 men, 371 women)
Events 145 in 17 sports
Opening ceremony November 22, 1956
June 10, 1956
Closing ceremony December 8, 1956
June 17, 1956
Officially opened by The Duke of Edinburgh
Gustav VI Adolf of Sweden
Athlete's Oath John Landy
Henri Saint Cyr
Olympic Torch Ron Clarke
Hans Wikne
Stadium Melbourne Cricket Ground

The 1956 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XVI Olympiad, were held in 1956 in Melbourne, Australia, although the equestrian events could not be held in Australia due to quarantine regulations. Therefore, these events were held in Stockholm, Sweden, marking the first time that events of the same Olympics were held in different countries. Melbourne had been elected as the host city over rival bids from Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Montreal and six American cities April 28 1949 on the 43rd IOC session.

Many members of the IOC had doubts about Melbourne from the beginning. Its location in the Southern Hemisphere was a big strike against it, since the reversal of seasons would mean the Games were held during the northern winter. This was thought likely to inconvenience northern hemisphere athletes who were accustomed to resting from the rigors of one year and gathering themselves for the rigors of the next.

But 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 alternate site, so equestrian competition began on June 10, five and a half months before the rest of the Olympic games were to open, half the world away.

Then bickering over financing broke out 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 used of federal funds.

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 of 1955 Brundage was still doubtful about Melbourne, and an inspection trip didn't satisfy him. Construction was well underway 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. The question then arose: Would the rest of the world be ready?

Great Britain and France took over the Suez Canal after Israel attacked Egypt. In protest, Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon announced they wouldn't participate in the Olympics. The Soviet Union invaded a rebellious Hungary, leading to the withdrawal of the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland.

Less than two weeks before the Nov. 22 opening ceremony, the People's Republic of China also pulled out because the Republic of China (Taiwan) had been allowed to compete.

Although the number of countries participating was almost the same—67, compared to 69 in 1952—the number of athletes dropped sharply, from 4,925 to 3,342. (Another 158 athletes from 29 countries took part in the Stockholm equestrian competition.)

Once the games were underway, though, they certainly went well. The Aussies were excellent hosts, both friendly and efficient. They were also well represented in competition. 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-meter 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-meter freestyle and as the leadoff swimmer on the 4 x 100-meter 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 Russian and Hungarian judges, and he finished second by just .03 to Mexico Joaquim 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 Joe Morrow led the way with gold medals in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and the 4 x 100-meter relay. Tom Courtney barely overtook Great Britain's Derek Johnson in the 800-meter 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-meter runs, while Ireland's Ron Delaney ran a brilliant 53.8 over the last 400 meters to win the 1,500-meter run, in which favorite John Landy of Australia finished third.

There was a major upset, marred briefly by controversy, in the 3,000-meter 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 Sandor Rozsnyoi of Hungary as the winner. Brasher's appeal, remarkably, was supported by Larsen, Rozsnyoi, 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 1932.

Only two world records were set in track and field. Mildred McDaniel, the only American woman to win gold in the sport, set a high jump record of 5 feet, 9 1/4 inches, and Egil Danielsen of Norway overcame a troublesome wind with a remarkable javelin throw of 281 feet, 2 1/2 inches.

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 Jose 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--the Australian organizers 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.


[edit] Highlights

  • Because Melbourne is in the southern hemisphere, the Olympics were held later in the year than former Olympics held in the northern hemisphere. The dates fitted the southern hemisphere season.
  • Two international events led to nations boycotting the Olympics. The first was the British and French involvement in the Suez Crisis, which led to the absence of Egypt, Lebanon, and Iraq. The Soviet handling of the Hungarian revolution led to the absence of Spain, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Hungary and the Soviet Union were themselves present, which among others led to a hotly contested and violent water polo encounter between the nations. In total, 45 Hungarians defected to the West after the Olympics. A third boycott came from the People's Republic of China, which protested against presence of the Republic of China (under the name Formosa).
  • Athletes from both East and West Germany competed in a combined team. This remarkable combination would disappear at the 1968 Summer Olympics.
  • Australian runner Betty Cuthbert became the "Golden Girl" by winning three track gold medals. Her performance was equalled by sprinter Bobby Joe Morrow.
  • Another Australian, Murray Rose, won three gold medals in swimming.
  • Soviet runner Vladimir Kuts won both the 5000 and 10000 m.
  • Inspired by Australian teenager John Wing, an Olympic tradition began when athletes of different nations are allowed to parade together at the closing ceremony, instead of with their national teams, as a symbol of world unity.
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
  • Laszlo Papp defends his light-middle weight boxing title.
  • The games were nicknamed "the Friendly Games."

[edit] Olympic Flame Relay

Image:1956 Olympic Torch relay Cairns.JPG
Torch Relay monument, Cairns

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

[edit] Medals awarded

See the medal winners, ordered by sport:

[edit] Demonstration sports

[edit] Participating nations

A total of 67 nations competed in Melbourne. Ethiopia, Fiji, Kenya, Liberia, Malaya (now part of Malaysia), North Borneo (also now part 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.

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

[edit] Medal count

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

 Rank  Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 Image:Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR 37293298
2 Image:US flag 48 stars.svg United States 32251774
3 Image:Flag of Australia.svg Australia (host nation) 1381435
4 Image:Flag of Hungary 1949-1956.gif Hungary 910726
5 Image:Flag of Italy.svg Italy 88925
6 Image:Flag of Sweden.svg Sweden 85619
7 Image:Flag of Germany-1960-Olympics.svg United Team of Germany 613726
8 Image:Flag of the United Kingdom.svg Great Britain 671124
9 Image:Romania flag 1947-1989.png Romania 53513
10 Image:Flag of Japan (bordered).svg Japan 410519

[edit] Buildings from the Olympics

Image:Melbourne olmpic pool (lexus centre).jpg
Former Olympic Pool, Melbourne (now the heritage registered Lexus Centre from the Yarra River.

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 the Lexus Centre as part of the Olympic Park complex. The former athlete's village in Heidelberg, Victoria remains as public housing.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Olympic Games}"> |
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SportsMedal countsNOCs
Summer Games: 1896, 1900, 1904, 19061, 1908, 1912, (1916)2, 1920, 1924, 1928, 1932, 1936, (1940)2, (1944)2, 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020, 2024
Winter Games: 1924, 1928, 1932, 1936, (1940)2, (1944)2, 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018, 2022
Athens 2004Turin 2006Beijing 2008Vancouver 2010London 2012
ar:ألعاب أولمبية صيفية 1956

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1956 Summer Olympics

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