Games of the XVI Olympiad
Melbourne (AUS) Stockholm (SWE)
22 November - 8 December 1956, 10 -17 June 1956
The Olympics Go Down Under
Melbourne won the right to host the 1956 Olympic Games by one vote over Buenos Aires. These would be the first Games to be held in the southern hemisphere.
But it is Back to Stockholm for Horsesport
The vote, however, had not taken into consideration Australian quarantine restrictions with their six-month pre-shipment quarantine. In 1953 – four years after the allocation of the Games – a meeting was held in Australia’s capital city Canberra, attended by the federal authorities. They recommended not to alter quarantine laws, which meant the end of equestrian events at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. The following year, the IOC decided on a separate venue for the equestrian events and on 13 May 1954 chose Stockholm.
The Swedes immediately created committees: an organising committee, mostly honorary, headed by Prince Bertil, and an executive committee. Its president was Count Gustaf-Frederick von Rosen, who had held a similar position in 1912 when horse sport had made its Olympic debut. After his death in early 1956, the former Olympic rider Arne Francke took over. Secretary General was another former Olympic rider, Robert Selfelt.
As in 1912, the Swedes preoccupied themselves with the finances. They secured deficit guarantees from the state (150,000 Crowns) and the city of Stockholm (50,000 Crowns). They got the permission for a lottery, run by the Swedish Equestrian Federation. From April to June 1955, 200,000 lottery tickets were sold producing a net profit for the Federation of 183,546 Crowns. To give an indication on money value, the cost of a room in a luxury hotel was 23 Crowns per day.
The total income from ticket sales was 1,938,751 Crowns – of which 282,583 Crowns went in taxes; in other words the government earned more in ticket taxes than it was willing to guarantee in deficit.
King Gustaf VI and Queen Louise presided over the opening ceremony, in which all the participants were on horseback or in carriages. Guests of honour were the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Hans Wikne, eight years later an Olympic rider, lit the Olympic flame. Henri St-Cyr, assisted by Gustaf-Adolf Boltenstem, pronounced the Olympic oath.
It Gets Tight for the Press
There were restrictions as to press accreditation. Originally only 400 were allowed, including TV and radio. In the end there were 500: 300 journalists, 100 radio, 50 TV and 50 photographers. The restriction was explained by the small size of the Stockholm Olympic stadium. Built for the 1912 Games, it had a capacity of only 21,000.
Games Facts & Figures
- 72 nations
- 3,314 athletes (376 women; 2,938 men)
- 17 sports
- To allow for the equestrian sports to be held and avoid the problem of quarantine for horses entering Australia, the Games took place in two different cities (Stockholm and Melbourne), in two different countries (Sweden and Australia), on two different continents (Europe and Oceania) and in two different seasons (June and November). This is the only time in the Games' hundred-year existence that the unity of time and place, as stipulated in the Charter, has not been observed.