Top Medal Winners – Countries
Country G S B Total 1. USSR 37 29 32 98 2. USA 32 25 17 74 3. Australia 13 8 14 35 4. Hungary 9 10 7 26 5. Italy 8 8 9 25 6. Germany 6 13 7 26 7. Great Britain 6 7 11 24 8. Sweden 8 5 6 19 9. Japan 4 10 5 19 10. France 4 4 6 14
Athlete, Country Sport-Men G S B Total
Dates of Competition:22 November – 8 December
(Equestrian Games in Stockholm 10-17 June)
Attendance: 67 nations
Male athletes: 2,813
Female athletes: 371
Most-medaled country: Soviet Union (98)
Final Torchbearer:Ron Clarke
The idea of the Olympics being hosted in Australia was first raised in the 1920s when Australia lobbied for the 1936 Olympics. James Taylor, the second Australian to be appointed to the IOC, lobbied for these 1936 games but his efforts were in vain. Frank Beaurepaire,(the Australian swimmer who won 6 medals between 1908 and 1924) was Lord Mayor of Melbourne (1940-1942). With a number of others, he lobbied Australian business, government and the IOC but, unfortunately, died 7 months before the Games opened.
Many,could not come to terms with the thought of Australia hosting the Olympics. The IOC had doubts about Melbourne & Australia from the very beginning.
Australia’s location in the Southern Hemisphere where the seasons were reversed was thought to be a disadvantage as most athletes were from the Northern Hemisphere. The athletes would have to compete in their ‘winter-off-season’ which was their usual rest period.
This meant that they would have to maintain their peak fitness for a longer period of time. (These North American athletes failed to comprehend that southern hemisphere athletes always have this problem).
Another disadvantage was the great distance athletes from Europe and America would be obliged to travel.
(Incidentally, this same problem was again encountered in Sydney’s 2000 bid. In order to clinch the deal,Sydney offered to pay all travel costs for every foreign team member & their officials).
Despite these problems, Melbourne was, in 1949, selected (by a one-vote margin) to host the 1956 games which were scheduled to begin on 22 November (during the Australian summer).
A consequence of the need to travel a great distance was that fewer athletes participated in the 1956 Olympics than in the Berlin Games which had been held 20 years earlier. While 69 countries competed in the 1952 Games, 67 competed in 1956 but the number of athletes participating dropped significantly – 3,342 in 1956 compared to 4,925 in 1952.
The Games also faced financial problems and industrial unrest.
The State of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, was facing a serious housing shortage problem and the Premier initially refused to allocate funds to the Games and, at one point, it seemed likely that the Games would have to be moved to another country, possibly Rome in Italy which was in the throes of preparing to host the 1960 Games.
The organisers also had to contend with armed conflicts in Egypt and Hungary . Egypt had seized the Suez Canal from British and French control. This lead to Britain and France invading Egypt in an attempt to retake the canal. In protest, Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon announced they wouldn’t participate in the Olympics.
The Soviet invasion of Hungary, resulted in the withdrawal of the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland. And less than two weeks before the Nov. 22 Opening Ceremony, the People’s Republic of China also pulled out because Taiwan had been allowed to compete.
However, once the games were underway,they went well. In brilliant sunshine , 103,000 spectators packed the Melbourne Cricket Ground .The Games were declared open by the Duke of Edinburgh. John Landy (runner) took the oath while another runner, Ron Clarke lit the Olympic flame.
The Soviet Union beat the US in the medal count for the first time. Their performance in gymnastics was brilliant and they won, for the first time, titles in the track and field events. Vladimir Kuts won the 5,000m and 10,000m.
American men dominated athletics winning 15 of the 24 events. Bobby Morrow won gold medals in the 100m and 200m dashes and the 4 x 100m relay. Tom Courtney narrowly beat Great Britain’s Derek Johnson in the 800m. Unfortunately, he later collapsed from exertion. Al Oerter won the discus with a throw of 56.36m and Harold Connolly won the hammer throw (63.19m).
Connolly also won the heart of the women’s discus champion, Olga Fikotová of Czechoslovakia. They were married 3 months later.
In diving, the United States didn’t win all four events as they normally
Pat McCormick took 2 golds. Bob Clotworthy won the men’s springboard event.
However,Gary Tobian was beaten by Mexico’s Joaquim Capilla by a mere 0.3secs in the platform event.
Czechoslovakia’s ,Emil Zátopek,
finished sixth in the marathon.
The event was won by Alain Mimoun of France who had finished
second to Zátopek in three previous Olympics.
Another upset was that of Chris Brasher of Great
Britain winning Britan’s 1st gold medal in track and field since 1932.
He was initially disqualified for interfering with Norway’s Ernst
Larsen, but the decision was reversed and Larsen,
a good sportsman, accepted the decision with good grace.
Shirley Strickland won the 80m hurdles and also ran
on the relay team.This increased her career total to seven medals
(three golds,a silver, and three bronze).
But it was in swimming,(see below)
where the Australians really shone.
Only 2 world records were set in track and field.
Egil Danielsen of Norway won the javelin gold with a throw of 281
feet 2 1/2 inches and Mildred McDaniel of the US set
a high jump record of 5 feet 9 ¼ inches.
Finally, one more event that deserves special mention especially in the
political climate of the times was the semi final water polo match
between the Hungarians & the Soviet Union. Hungary won 4-0,
but only after the match turned ugly. One Hungarian player had to be
pulled bleeding from the pool. It was aledged that he was head butted
but one of his Soviet opponents. A riot started involving both players
and spectators. Police had to be called in. The Hungarians however
went on to win the gold medal.
These international tensions encouraged a new idea & created history for the
closing ceremony. In the past the teams had marched in the same way as
at the Opening Ceremony – in lines behind their flags.
However, in these games, the athletes were encouraged to mingle
with one another .
The idea was that of 17-year-old schoolboy, John lan Wing.
He was an Australian-born Chinese carpenter’s apprentice.
He wrote to the games organisers that “when the Games closed, the sports men
and women of the world should mingle,
with no more than two teammates together,
and not march but walk, waving to the crowd”.
He wanted to see all the athletes march as
one.Thus an Olympic tradition began ,that has been followed ever since.
Top of Page
Australia in the
1956 Melbourne Olympic Games
Eight of the golds and six of the minor medals came
- Athletics-Women’s 100m : Betty Cuthbert
- Athletics-Women’s 200m : Betty Cuthbert
- Athletics-Women’s 80m hurdles : Shirley Strickland
- Athletics-Women’s 4 x 100m relay : Betty Cuthbert, Norma Croker, Fleur Mellor, Shirley Strickland.
- Swimming-Men’s 100m freestyle : Jon Henricks
- Swimming-Men’s 400m freestyle : Murray Rose
- Swimming-Men’s 100m backstroke : David Theile
(A Queensland medical student- he was to retain the title in Rome four years later.)
- Swimming-Men’s 4 x 200m freestyle : John Devitt, Jon Henricks, Kevin O’Halloran, Murray Rose.
- Swimming-Women’s 100m freestyle : Dawn Fraser
- Swimming-Women’s 400m freestyle : Lorraine Crapp
- Swimming-Women’s 4 x 100m freestyle : Lorraine Crapp, Dawn Fraser, Faith
Leech, Sandra Morgan.
- Cycling-2000m tandem : lan Browne and Tony Marchant.
(These guys had only teamed up 10 months earlier.)
- Athletics-High jump : Charles “Chilla” Porter
(Porter improved more than 5 centimetres on his previous best to take the
silver. American, Charles Dumas won the Gold)
- Athletics-Men’s 4 x 400m relay : Graham Gipson, Kevan Gosper, David Lean, Leon Gregory.
(Kevan Gosper, was to later become vice-president of the IOC.)
- Rowing-Single sculls : Stuart Mackenzie
- Swimming-Men’s 100m freestyle : John Devitt
- Swimming-Men’s 100m backstroke : John Monckton
- Swimming-Women’s 400m freestyle : Dawn Fraser
- Swimming-Women’s 100m freestyle : Lorraine Crapp
- Yachting-Sharpie class (12 square metres) : Rolly Tasker and John Scott.
(Australia won its first two medals in yachting here.
The races were held in Port Phillip Bay)
- Athletics-Men’s 100m : Hec Hogan
- Athletics-Men’s 1500m : John Landy
(John Landy was the favorite but Ron Delaney (Ireland)
ran 53.8 over the last 400 metres to win. Landy, always the good sport,
had gone up to Delany before
the race to wish him well with the words “I think you can win this one”)
- Athletics-Men’s 10,000m : Allan Lawrence
- Athletics-Women’s 100m : Marlene Mathews
- Athletics-Women’s 200m : Marlene Mathews
- Athletics-Women’s 80m hurdles : Norma Thrower
- Boxing-Welterweight division (67kg) : Kevin Hogarth
- Canoeing-10,000 kayak pairs (K2) : Dennis Green and Wally Brown
- Cycling-1000m sprint : Dick Ploog
- Rowing-Double sculls : Murray Riley and Merv Wood
(Held on Lake Wendouree, Ballarat.)
- Rowing-eights : Michael Aikman, David Boykett, Angus Benfield, Bryan Doyle,
Harold Hewitt, James Howden, Walter Howell, Garth Manton, Adrian Monger.
- Swimming-100m freestyle : Gary Chapman
- Swimming-Women’s 100m freestyle : Faith Leech
- Yachting-5.5m class : Jock Sturrock (with Dev Mytton, Doug Buxton)
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