Site: Melbourne, Australia
Dates: November 22 - December 8
Nations: 67 Nations
Total Athletes: 3,342
For the first time in Olympic history, the Games went "down under" to
Melbourne, Australia, which edged out Buenos Aires, Argentina by just one vote.
It was not received well and even new IOC president Avery Brundage felt it was
a big mistake.
The Games would
present organization and financial difficulties because of the location and
distance. The Australian bid committed had failed to inform the IOC of their
government's unwillingness to bend stringent equine quarantine rules. As a
result, the IOC was forced to separate the equestrian events to Stockholm,
The timeliness of the Games could not be worse for the Aussies. Leading up to
the opening ceremonies, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon sent in their cancellation
notices if Israel, which had taken over the Suez Canal, participated. Spain,
Holland and Switzerland sent in their notices in protest of the Soviet Union's
invasion of Hungary. Ironically, both the Soviet Union and Holland sent full
teams. If that wasn't bad enough, the Republic of China indicated they were
backing out because of the IOC's recognition of Taiwan.
The IOC received a black eye of sorts when a brawl broke out between Russia and
Hungary during a water polo match. The Hungarians won the match 4-0 and
ultimately the gold medal. The Swiss official terminated the match prematurely,
calling it a "boxing match under water." The majority of the spectators were
heavily in favor of Hungary and as a result the Australian riot police had to
escort the Russians from the pool.
The Games also marked several "firsts" for some countries:
Norway captured its first gold medal in track and field as Egil Danielson won
the javelin toss in a world-record throw. Iceland garnered its first Olympic
medal on the back of Vilhjalmur Einarsson's silver medal in the triple jump.
Other heroes of the Games were American Al Oerter, who would emerge from the
Games with the first of four consecutive gold medals in the discus. U.S.
sprinter Bobby Mitchell captured gold medals in the 100, 200 and 4 x 100 relay,
while Aussie Betty Cuthbert took the gold in the same events. Soviet long-
distance runner Vladimir Kuts won the 5,000 and 10,000-meter double, while U.S.
swimmer Pat McCormick captured the double gold in platform and springboard.
Hungarians were the obvious underdogs and certainly the sentimental favorites
of the spectators. The elder statesman and Olympic Boxing champion Laszlo Papp
won his third career gold medal with a middleweight victory over Jose Torres of
the United States. The feat was even more impressive when a short time later,
Torres went on to become the light heavyweight champion of the world.
However, the biggest upset of the Games came in the marathon when 36-year old
Czech Alain Mimoun, a silver winner in both the 1948 and 1952 Olympics, finally
got his gold, besting his personal nemesis Emil Zatopek. Mimoun was relegated
to second-place finishes behind folk hero Zatopek. How ironic it was to have
Mimoun greet a cramped up Zatopek.
The hosts did not fare too well throughout much of the Games. The Aussies, who
relished their opportunities in the water, saved swimming for the final events.
They captured 14 total medals, eight gold, four silver and two bronze, besting
all other nations. Dawn Fraser led the Aussie contingent by setting the world
record in the 100-meter freestyle final.
The best side story of the Olympics was the romantic relationship between U.S.
hammer thrower Harold Connolly and Czech discus thrower Olga Fikotova. The two
met on the practice field, won gold medals in their respective sports, married
and moved to California.
It would also be the first time in Olympic history that athletes would enter
the stadium for closing ceremonies in a cluster with athletes mingling with one
another rather than the tradition of entering under the country flag. A 17-
year-old Taiwanese athlete, who thought the display would show a wave of unity,
presented the idea.