Olympic Marathon: A Centennial History of the Games' Most Storied Race

By Charlie Lovett | Go to book overview

14
The Games'of the XVI Olympiad: Melbourne, 1956

The Summer Olympics were held in the southern hemisphere for the first time in 1956, when they opened in Melbourne, Australia on November 22. Though winter was approaching in Paris, London, and Rome, the summer sun shone in Melbourne. Once again politics threatened the Games. Three Arab teams refused to attend in protest of Israel's takeover of the Suez Canal, three European countries boycotted because of the Soviet Union's invasion of Hungary (although Hungary sent a full team that quickly became a favorite with the crowd), and China refused to attend because Taiwan had been given official status by the IOC. It is indicative of the important place the Olympics had taken on the world stage that they had become so symbolic politically. In the decades to come, the Games would be plagued by such political protests, but, as they had survived the World Wars, they would survive the boycotts.

Troubles between local and federal governments in Australia led to a late start in the construction of the Olympic sites, and led the IOC to state several times that Rome, the host of the 1960 Games, was better prepared than Melbourne and could be substitute host of the 1956 games if necessary. But the Australians pulled everything together at last, and the Games opened as scheduled in the 102,000-seat Melbourne cricket arena. Despite the small population of Australia, the Games were extremely well attended, with the spacious venues frequently filled to capacity.

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