Moments of Melbourne, Part 1 - Thursday, November 22nd, 1956

With cannon fire and a rather slow version of Australia's most popular song, "Waltzing Matilda", Melbourne opened the 1956 Summer Olympics on a cloudy and cool Thursday afternoon. The ceremony, that started at 3:00 PM local time, had nothing of the modern day pomp and pageantry. The somber mood was apt to the politically turbulent times. Considering the backdrop of the crises in Hungary and in the Suez, many people around the globe considered it to be a success that the Games were held at all. German commentator Dr. Paul Laven wrote: "The Olympic flames saves peace on earth!" (picture: Getty)

A spirit of newness and the unusual sorrounded this opening day. Never before had the Games been staged in the southern hemisphere. Never before had an opening ceremony been held so late in the year, with most of the season virtually over for the top-tier athletes from Europe and America and Melbourne's shop windows already featuring Christmas decoration. Nevertheless, it was the Australian audience and their genuine love for sports that saved the opening day and the fortnight to come.

Queen Elizabeth had send her husband Prince Philipp, the Duke of Edinburgh, Down Under to officially declare open the Games. Before that, the parade of nations had seen the first Summer Olympics appearance of a unified team from East and West Germany. Roaring applause welcomed the team from civil war torn Hungary that had left Budapest at the height of the revolution. Many athletes were unsure about the fate of their loved ones back home when arriving at Melbourne, many were never going to go home again (picture: Getty).

Despite of the boycott by the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Egypt, Iran, and the Lebanon, 69 nations entered, equalling the record set four years earlier at Helsinki. While young Australian running hopeful Ron Clarke was almost burnt when he lit the Olympic cauldron, his mentor and hero John Landy spoke the oath for all the athletes (picture: olympics.com.au).

While a lot of things were new on this day, there was also one historic last: This opening ceremony was the last in history not to be followed live by a global TV audience. Australian TV ABC had started broadcasting just two weeks before. At the time of the opening ceremony, only 5000 television sets had been sold in the whole country. Tapes from the opening ceremony and the following competitions were carried to Sydney by car, where the footage was refurbished into daily reports. Outside of Australia, only few moving pictures could be seen - and that only three to five days later (picture: abctvgorehill.com.au).

Keine Kommentare:

Kommentar veröffentlichen