Opening date: Nov. 22, 1956
Closing date:Dec. 8, 1956
Athletes: 3,184 athletes (371 women, 2,813 men)
Sports:145 events in 17 sports
The 1956 Games were held in Melbourne, Australia. Melbourne won the right to host the 1956 Olympics by one vote over Buenos Aires. Over 3,000 athletes participated from 67 countries.
These Olympics were the first where events took place in two countries. As quarantine laws did not allow the entry of foreign horses into Australia, equestrian events were held in Stockholm in June 1956. The rest of the Games started in late November, when it was summertime in the Southern Hemisphere.
Did you know that the Olympics were also held at a third country during 1956? the Olympics were also held in 1956 in Italy. The winter Olympics that is.
The Games were almost canceled due to an armed conflict both in Europe as well as Africa. In Europe, the Russians had invaded Hungary, while the British and French attacked Egypt in order to regain the Suez Canal. As a sign of protest 6 countries withdrew from the Olympics. The Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland because of the events in Hungary and Iraq and Lebanon because of the conflict in Suez. Less than two weeks before the opening ceremony, the People's Republic of China also pulled out because the Republic of China (Taiwan) had been allowed to compete. Although the Games were not canceled, there were many episodes such as in the water-polo match between Russia and Hungary.
Changes to the Closing Ceremony
Inspired by the Australian teenager John Wing, an Olympic tradition began when the athletes of different nations paraded together at the closing ceremony as a symbol of world unity, a tradition which continues to this day
"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 Organizers, 1956.
Although many references imply that before this date the athletes marched with their national teams, in a personal message from John Wing, he points out that athletes did not march in the Closing Ceremony at all until his letter in 1956.
This gesture, and the general feeling around the Games, resulted in the Melbourne Games being nicknamed "the Friendly Games". The song that ended the closing ceremony at the 1956 games was 'Will Ye No Come Back Again?'
- The Olympic torchbearer for the 1956 Olympics was a virtually unknown 19 year old at the time he carried the torch into the stadium at Melbourne. Ron Clarke went on to become the world's finest distance runner in the 1960s.
- The 1956 Games were the first games to be held in the southern hemisphere.
- Many know of the grudge polo match between Hungary and the Soviet Union played at the 1956 Games, soon after the Soviets invaded Hungary, but the result? Hungary won 4-0, then went on to win gold.
- There were a few political crises: Lichtenstein, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden boycotted the games in protest of the Soviet invasion of Hungary. Egypt, Lebanon, and Iraq did the same as a result of the Suez crisis. The People's Republic of China refused to participate due to the inclusion of the Republic of China (Taiwan).
- The Butterfly event in swimming was "invented" for the 1956 Games after some swimmers had begun to exploit a loophole in the breaststroke rules.
- East and West Germany were represented by one combined unified team. The team competed under a black, red and yellow flag with the Olympic rings, with "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's IX Symphony as their anthem. This practice would take place for the following two editions of the Games.
- The Soviets dominated the field, winning 98 medals, while the Americans won 74.
- In 1956, the gold medal winning hammer thrower from America, Harold Connolly, won despite a physical disability - his left arm was inches shorter and much less developed that his right.
- List of sports at the 1956 Olympic Games
- Melbourne Cricket Ground
- Complete list of Olympic host cities
- Sydney 2000 Olympic Games
- Information about Australia's participation at the Olympics
- Videos from the 1956 Olympics
- 1956: The Year in Sport