This blog provides information, stories, links and events relating to and promoting the history of the Wimmera district.
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Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Game on

Conducted against the backdrop of the Suez crisis and the Hungarian Revolution, the Melbourne Olympics known as 'The Friendly Games', commenced on 22nd November 1956. 
The Games were centred around the Melbourne Cricket Ground and in terms of gold medals, were one of the most successful ever for Australian athletes. Athletes such as Betty Cuthbert, Shirley Strickland, Murray Rose and Dawn Fraser dominated their events. 
Television was introduced in Australia in time to broadcast the events, and thus made sure their success became part of Australian sporting history.
Melbourne secured the right to host the Games back in 1949 and organisers immediately set about a building campaign.
The Olympic rings still suspended above Alamein Road
A self-contained Olympic Games village of 788-840 solid brick, brick veneer and pre-fabricated concrete houses accommodated up to 6,000 athletes and officials during the Games. 
It was built on the site of a former swamp in West Heidelberg, by the Victorian Housing Commission on a 117 acre (30 hectare) site 7½ miles (14km) from the main Olympic Stadium (the MCG). 
Some of the Games housing in Southern Rd
The houses were a mix of single, semi-detached dwellings, and a number of row hoses. Each house had (what was then) a modern bathroom with shower, bath and basin, with hot and cold water from gas bath-heaters.
The Olympic shopping centre today
Facilities provided for the Games include 3 sports grounds, shopping centre, bank, post office, medical & dental centre, police, station, barber shop, and clothes mending & shoe repair centre. 
The community hall (now a leisure centre) was the venue for films, concerts, dance and other events for the athletes.
Communication home for the athletes was largely via telegrams which were delivered by local boy scouts.
The Games Village Green with its Olympic bollards
There were dining rooms and kitchens for the different national groups in separate temporary buildings. It was said that the many cooks, chefs & bakers (like Burnetti's) brought in for the Games were the birth of Melbourne's food culture.
The Games Village was planned, so that it become available for conversion to permanent housing after the Games. For years after the Games finished, the Housing Commission estate remained as public housing.
The precinct is now in the City of Banyule and is on their Heritage Register.

1 comment:

  1. Check out this YouTube clip by a 16 year old Peter Beresford which includes shots of the newly erected Olympic Village.