Melbourne 1956 commemorative plaque unveiled
22 November 2006
The President of the Australian Olympic Committee, John Coates and IOC Member Kevan Gosper today unveiled a commemorative plaque at the Melbourne Cricket Ground to mark the 50th Anniversary of the 1956 Olympics.
Many Olympians from 1956 and dignatories attended the unveiling ceremony with Betty Cuthbert the special guest.
Below is the speech from John Coates:
“The 1956 Olympic Games represented a significant moment in the history of this great city of Melbourne – a moment when it welcomed the world.
It hosted the Games with great efficiency and tremendous warmth, asserting itself as a haven of goodwill at a time of considerable global conflict and tension.
Melbourne was a rather shy city then, said to be uncertain of its place in the world. After the show it put on in 1956, though, there could never again be any question about its sense of self-esteem, its sense of identity.
Just as those Games became a defining time in Melbourne’s history, they came to be seen as a landmark in the history of the Olympic Movement.
Never before had competing nations travelled so far to the Games. Never had they ventured below the equator. And so abundant was the mood of joy and friendship in Melbourne in 1956 that those Games were branded forever as the Friendly Games.
It is appropriate that the plaque which is unveiled today is situated where it is – in the heart of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The MCG was of course the main focus of competition at the Melbourne Olympics. But it is much more than that. It has always had a special place in the hearts of the city’s citizens.
It is a cathedral of sport, and I have to say it does not just belong to this city… unrivalled as it is as the capital of Australian sport.
Olympic historian, Harry Gordon, has described the MCG as “the place where the soul of Australian sport resides”. I have no doubt that he is right.
The MCG, which will forever be linked with the Australian Olympic Movement, is without doubt one of the finest stadiums in the world. I frankly don’t know of a better one anywhere.
If there’s a secret to its success, I believe it is this. It’s custodians have, over so many years, been prepared to cope with changing times by making changes.
It has long had a capacity virtually to reinvent itself. It did so, to a degree, 50 years ago as it prepared for the Olympics, and again, much more recently, for the Commonwealth Games.
I’m delighted on this important occasion – in the remembrance of the 1956 Olympic Games and in the life of the MCG – that we’re joined by gold medallists and other athletes from the Melbourne Games.
The Australian Olympic Committee salutes you all. You contributed so much to the history of this arena, of this city, and of the Olympic Games. We are proud to be with you today."