The 1956 Melbourne Games were the first to be held south of the equator. The games were held November 22-December 8. The number of competitors fell to 3258, with 384 being women. 72 countries participated in the 151 events in 17 sports.
The games were awarded to Melbourne by just one vote, Buenos Aires lost by one vote. It’s wonder IOC President Avery Brundage didn’t award it to Buenos Aires that way he could hang out with some of his Nazi friends who escaped Germany at the end of the war. Other cities who put in bids Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Montreal. After being awarded the games they were almost taken away from Melbourne due to the slow movement in the organizers getting things ready. There were arguments in the government in Australia over the funding of the games. Brundage nearly took the games away and thought of giving them to Rome who was getting ready for the 1960 games. But in the end Melbourne came through and it was a well-organized games.
Philip Duke of Edinburgh [Queen Elizabeth II husband} opened the games. Ron Clarke at the time a 19 year old athlete just beginning his olympic career lit the cauldron at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds which held 100,000 people. These games would be known at the “Friendly Games”
The Australians ruled in the swimming pool with 8 gold, 4 silver and 2 bronze. The United States did the best in the track and field events winning gold in 15 of the 24 events. The water polo match between Hungary and the Soviet Union became so violent it became known as Blood In The Water Match. Water Polo by the way is underrated. I’d rather watch that over volleyball anyday.
One of the all-time great Olympians- Al Oerter won the gold in the discus throw. It would be the first of four gold. He would win the event in 1960, 1964 and 1968. In every olympics he was an underdog in the event. He was an athlete who rose to the occasion.
At the Closing Ceremony a new traditon was started. The athletes marched in all as one, not as countries.