The 1956 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XVI Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event that was held in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, from 22 November to 8 December 1956, with the exception of the equestrian events, which were held in Stockholm, Sweden, in June 1956.
These Games were the first to be staged in the Southern Hemisphere and Oceania, as well as the first to be held outside Europe and North America. Melbourne is the most southerly city ever to host the Olympics. Due to the Southern Hemisphere's seasons being different from those in the Northern Hemisphere, the 1956 Games did not take place at the usual time of year, because of the need to hold the events during the warmer weather of the host's spring/summer (which corresponds to the Northern Hemisphere's autumn/winter).
The Olympic equestrian events could not be held in Melbourne due to Australia's strict quarantine regulations, so they were held in Stockholm five months earlier. This was the second time that the Olympics were not held entirely in one country, the first being the 1920 Summer Olympics, which were held in Antwerp, Belgium, with some events taking place in Ostend, Belgium and Amsterdam, Netherlands. Despite uncertainties and various complications encountered during the preparations, the 1956 Games went ahead in Melbourne as planned and turned out to be a success. The enduring tradition of national teams parading as one during the closing ceremony was started at these Olympics.
|Games of the XVI Olympiad|
|Host city||Melbourne, Victoria, Australia|
|Athletes||3,314 (2,938 men, 376 women)|
|Events||151 in 17 sports (23 disciplines)|
|Stadium||Melbourne Cricket Ground|
Many members of the IOC were sceptical about Melbourne as an appropriate site. Its location in the Southern Hemisphere was a major concern, since the reversal of seasons would mean the Games must be held during the northern winter. The November–December schedule was thought likely to inconvenience athletes from the Northern Hemisphere, who were accustomed to resting during their winter.
Notwithstanding these concerns, the field of candidates eventually narrowed to two Southern Hemisphere cities, these being Melbourne and Buenos Aires, Argentina. 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 alternative site, so equestrian competition began on 10 June, five and a half months before the rest of the Olympic Games were to open.
The above problems of the Melbourne Games were compounded by bickering over financing among Australian politicians. Faced with a housing shortage, the Premier of Victoria (Henry Bolte) refused to allocate money for the Olympic Village (eventually sited in Heidelberg West), and the country's Prime Minister (Robert Menzies) barred the use of federal funds.
At one point, 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 1955, Brundage was still doubtful about Melbourne, and was not satisfied by an inspection trip to the city. Construction was well under way 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.
Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon announced that they would not participate in the Olympics in response to the Suez Crisis when Egypt was invaded by Israel, the United Kingdom, and France after Egypt nationalised the Suez Canal. Meanwhile, in 1956 the Soviet Union crushed the Hungarian Revolution, and the Soviet presence at the Games led to the withdrawal of the Netherlands, Cambodia, Spain, and Switzerland.
Although the number of countries participating (67) was almost the same as in 1952 (69), the number of athletes competing dropped sharply, from 4,925 to 3,342. (This figure does not include the 158 athletes from 29 countries who took part in the Stockholm equestrian competition.)
Once underway, the Games progressed smoothly, and came to be known as the "Friendly Games". Betty Cuthbert, an 18-year-old from Sydney, won the 100 and 200 metre sprint races and ran an exceptional final leg in the 4 x 100 metre relay to overcome Great Britain's lead and claim her third gold medal. The veteran Shirley Strickland repeated her 1952 win in the 80 metre hurdles and was also part of the winning 4 x 100 metre relay team, bringing her career Olympic medal total to seven: three golds, a silver, and three bronze medals.
Australia also triumphed in swimming. 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 metre freestyle and as the leadoff swimmer in the 4 x 100 metre relay team.
The men's track and field events were dominated by the United States. They not only won 15 of the 24 events, they swept four of them and took first and second place in five others. Bobby Morrow led the way with gold medals in the 100 and 200 metre sprints and the 4 x 100 metre relay. Tom Courtney barely overtook Great Britain's Derek Johnson in the 800 metre run, then collapsed from the exertion and needed medical attention.
There was a major upset, marred briefly by controversy, in the 3,000 metre steeplechase. Little-known Chris Brasher of Great Britain finished well ahead of the field, but the judges disqualified him for interfering with Norway's Ernst Larsen, and they announced Sándor Rozsnyói of Hungary as the winner. Brasher's appeal was supported by Larsen, Rozsnyói, and fourth-place finisher Heinz Laufer of Germany. Subsequently, the decision was reversed and Brasher became the first Briton to win a gold medal in track and field since 1936.
Only two world records were set in track and field. Mildred McDaniel, the first American woman to win gold in the sport, set a high jump record of 1.76 metres (5.8 ft), and Egil Danielsen of Norway overcame blustery conditions with a remarkable javelin throw of 85.71 metres (281.2 ft).
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 José 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 took place against the background of the Soviet invasion of Hungary. The game became rough and, when a Hungarian was forced to leave the pool with a bleeding wound above his eye, a riot almost broke out. The police restored order and the game was called early, with Hungary leading 4–0, and the Hungarians went on to win the gold medal.
In a much publicized Olympic romance, American hammer throw champion Hal Connolly would marry Czechoslovak discus throw champion, Olga Fikotová. After moving to the United States, Olga wanted to continue representing Czechoslovakia, but the Czech Olympic Committee would not allow her to do so. Thereafter, as Olga Connolly, she took part in every Olympics until 1972 competing for the U.S. She was the flag bearer for the U.S. team at the 1972 Summer Olympics.
Despite the international tensions of 1956—or perhaps because of them—a young Melburnian, John Ian Wing, came up with a new idea for the closing ceremony. Instead of marching as separate teams, behind their national flags, the athletes mingled together as they paraded into and around the arena for a final appearance before the spectators. It was the start of an Olympic tradition that has been followed ever since.
The 1956 Summer Olympics featured 17 different sports encompassing 23 disciplines, and medals were awarded in 151 events (145 events in Melbourne and 6 equestrian events in Stockholm). In the list below, the number of events in each discipline is noted in parentheses.
A total of 67 nations competed in the 1956 Olympics. Eight countries made their Olympic debuts: Cambodia (only competed in the equestrian events in Stockholm), Ethiopia, Fiji, Kenya, Liberia, Federation of Malaya, North Borneo (modern-day Sabah of Malaysia), and Uganda. Athletes from East Germany and West Germany competed together as the United Team of Germany, an arrangement that would last until 1968.
For the first time, the team of Republic of China effectively represented only Taiwan.
Five nations competed in the equestrian events in Stockholm, but did not attend the Games in Melbourne. Egypt did not compete in Melbourne due to the Suez Crisis, whilst the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland all boycotted the Melbourne Olympics in protest at the Soviet invasion of Hungary.
These are the top ten nations that won medals at the 1956 Games.
|7||United Team of Germany||6||13||7||26|
|Totals (10 nations)||128||118||113||359|
Host nation (Australia)
| Summer Olympic Games
XVI Olympiad (1956)
The association football tournament at the 1956 Summer Olympics was won by the Soviet Union.Athletics at the 1956 Summer Olympics
At the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, 33 athletics events were contested, 24 for men and 9 for women. There were a total number of 720 participating athletes from 61 countries.Australia at the 1956 Summer Olympics
Australia was the host nation for the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. However, due to Australian quarantine restrictions the equestrian events were held in Stockholm, Sweden. 294 competitors, 250 men and 44 women, took part in 140 events in 18 sports.Boxing at the 1956 Summer Olympics
Boxing at the 1956 Summer Olympics took place at the West Melbourne Stadium. A total number of 164 competitors entered from 35 nations, of whom 161 from 34 nations weighed-in and boxing was held eight nights and five afternoons. The boxing schedule began on 23 November and ended on 1 December. Ten boxing events (all men's individual) were contested.Canada at the 1956 Summer Olympics
Canada competed at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia and Stockholm, Sweden (equestrian events). 92 competitors, 77 men and 15 women, took part in 81 events in 14 sports.Cycling at the 1956 Summer Olympics
The cycling competition at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne consisted of two road cycling events and four track cycling events, all for men only.Equestrian at the 1956 Summer Olympics
The equestrian events at the 1956 Summer Olympics were held in Stockholm due to the Australian quarantine regulations and included dressage, eventing, and show jumping. All three disciplines had both individual and team competitions. The competitions were held from 11 to 17 June 1956 at Stockholm Olympic Stadium. There were 159 entries from 29 countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Soviet Union, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, USA and Venezuela. This would be the first appearance for Australia, Cambodia and Venezuela in equestrian events.
Although Melbourne was awarded the 1956 Olympic Games, Australia had a strict six-month pre-shipment quarantine on horses. A meeting in 1953 by Australian federal authorities ruled that they would not change the quarantine laws for the Olympic horses. Therefore, the equestrian competition would not be able to be held in Australia. In 1954, the IOC selected Stockholm, Sweden as the alternate venue for the equestrian events. Therefore, the equestrian events were not only separated by city or country, but also continent, with the equestrian event being held in June (summer in the Northern Hemisphere) and the other sports held in November (late spring in the Southern Hemisphere).France at the 1956 Summer Olympics
France competed at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia and Stockholm, Sweden (equestrian events). 137 competitors, 119 men and 18 women, took part in 95 events in 15 sports.Great Britain at the 1956 Summer Olympics
Great Britain, represented by the British Olympic Association (BOA), competed at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. British athletes have competed in every Summer Olympic Games. 189 competitors, 163 men and 26 women, took part in 108 events in 17 sports.The Melbourne Games saw an improvement on Great Britain and Northern Ireland's performance at the two preceding Games. British athletes won six gold medals (up from just one in 1952). Overall, they won twenty-four medals, finishing eighth.Hungary at the 1956 Summer Olympics
Hungary competed at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia and Stockholm, Sweden (equestrian events). 108 competitors, 88 men and 20 women, took part in 80 events in 12 sports.Italy at the 1956 Summer Olympics
Italy competed at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia and Stockholm, Sweden (equestrian events). 129 competitors, 114 men and 15 women, took part in 76 events in 13 sports.North Borneo at the 1956 Summer Olympics
North Borneo competed at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. It was the only Olympic appearance by the former British protectorate, which formed part of the new country Malaysia in 1963.Romania at the 1956 Summer Olympics
Romania competed at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia and Stockholm, Sweden (equestrian events). 44 competitors, 33 men and 11 women, took part in 35 events in 10 sports.Rowing at the 1956 Summer Olympics – Men's eight
The men's eight competition at the 1956 Summer Olympics took place at Lake Wendouree near Ballarat, Australia.Soviet Union at the 1956 Summer Olympics
The Soviet Union (USSR) competed at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. 272 competitors, 233 men and 39 women, took part in 135 events in 17 sports.Sweden at the 1956 Summer Olympics
Sweden competed at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, with the exception of the equestrian events, which could not be held in Australia due to quarantine regulations. Instead, those events were held five months earlier in Stockholm, Sweden.
88 competitors, 74 men and 14 women, took part in 74 events in 14 sports. Swedish athletes won a total of 19 medals at the games, including 3 golds in the equestrian events held in their own country.Swimming at the 1956 Summer Olympics
At the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, 13 swimming events were contested, seven for men and six for women. There was a total of 235 participants from 33 countries competing. For the first time, the butterfly stroke was contested as a separate event. Australia dominated the medal standings with a total of 8 out of a possible 13 gold medals, eventually finishing with 14 medals overall.United States at the 1956 Summer Olympics
The United States competed at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. 297 competitors, 251 men and 46 women, took part in 139 events in 18 sports.United Team of Germany at the 1956 Summer Olympics
Germany was represented at the 1956 Summer Olympics by a United Team of Germany of athletes from the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) (West Germany) and, for the first time at Summer Games, also from the German Democratic Republic (GDR) (East Germany) which had not joined in 1952. Also, the Saarland athletes who had to enter as a separate team in 1952 could now join in even though the accession of their state was not yet in effect. Thus, this was the only Olympic team ever to comprise athletes from three German states.
Most of the Games were held in Melbourne, Australia, but due to Australian quarantine regulations the equestrian events were held five months earlier in Stockholm, Sweden. 158 competitors, 134 men and 24 women, took part in 95 events in 15 sports.
|1956 Summer Olympics bidding results|
|City||Country||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4|
|Los Angeles||United States||5||4||5||—|
|San Francisco||United States||0||—||—||—|
|Participating National Olympic Committees|
|NOCs that participated in the equestrian events in Stockholm, but did not attend the Games in Melbourne:|
(*)(competed at the Equestrian games in Stockholm only)