Moments of Melbourne, Part 15 - Saturday, December 8th, 1956

The last day of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics was different from any other in history. Until the late 1970s, the last competition to be held before the closing ceremony, was the team show jumping. But as the equestrian events had been relocated to Stockholm due to Australian quarantine laws, the Melbourne organizers had to make an adjustment. That is why the last gold medal of 1956 was awarded to the football team of the USSR. The Russians defeated Yugoslavia in the final by a score of 1-0. It was Saturday, December 8th. Never before and after was an Olympic gold medal presented so late in a calendar year.

While the football final at the eleventh hour remained a historic singularity, another thing became tradition. At the Melbourne closing ceremony, the athletes marched into the stadium not with their teams, but as a mixed bunch of people representing all countries, genders, religions, and colours. The idea was born by a 17 year old Chinese born student, John Ian Wing, who lived in Australia. In an anonymous letter to the International Olympic Comittee, he suggested that this march would be a powerful symbol for peace in politically turbulent times: "This march would make the Games even greater, because there will only be 1 nation." The IOC agreed - and the march became such a powerful success story that it was held up until today

While Wing earned life long praise for his idea around the globe (picture: Olympic Museum), American documentary film maker Bud Greenspan reserved the finale of his trilogy "100 Years of Olympic Glory" for the closing ceremony of Melbourne 1956. The scenes from Melbourne Cricket Ground may seem kitschy and tearjerking from today's perspective, but Wing's idea was in accordance with the spirit of the time. A time when many people still thought, sports and the Olympics could heal wounds and make the world a better place (picture: www.johnwing.co.uk).

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