It was Summer in 1956. Melbourne was hosting the Olympics. The Opening Ceremony was on 22 November. We were a family of six – parents and four children. We did not attend the Opening Ceremony.
But was this to good an opportunity to miss? It had been a battle to get the Olympics to the Southern Hemisphere. It was the rest time for the athletes in the Northern Hemisphere. How could they be ready during their off season? Being a bit parochial for Australia, thinking about it these days, they obviously discounted the issue that this is what Southern Hemisphere athletes were up against. Although, even today, may spend the southern winter months in Europe or the US training so that they are in peak condition for competition.
So, it was decided. The family needed to get to the Olympics. Or at least, some of the family needed to attend something. As I said, a family of six. A single, lowish income. This did not really allow for tickets for six. On the basis that my brother and I were too young to appreciate it anyway, only my parents and older siblings attended. The tickets were bought for the athletics events on 1 December – four tickets, not six. What to do with the “young ones” as we were known? We would miss out on the excitement – and of course we could not be left alone – my brother was only five, and I was six. We had relations living in Oakleigh, just up from Dandenong Road. This was a cousin, a niece of my father’s, who was a lot older than us. She was married with children, some of them our age. This is where we spent the day. It was planned that we would walk down to the end of the road so that we could watch the Marathon which was to head along Dandenong Road at some stage during the afternoon – the consolation prize for not going to the Olympic venue.
Did we get to see the Marathon? Well, sort of. Either there was some confusion as to when they would be heading past the end of the street, or my cousin forgot the time. But we did get down to the end of the road while the race was still on. But there were a lot of people, and we were quite small. We did see some of the runners, although I do not think we saw the early ones.
So, were we there?
Yes, we were in Melbourne during the 1956 Olympics.
Yes, we saw a few of the athletes competing.
But, my brother and I did not experience much of the excitement of attending the Olympics.