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Melbourne 1956 makes history as equestrian events take place in Sweden

12 November 2016

In the lead up to the sixth anniversary of the Melbourne Olympics later this month, we continue our series of features about the Games.

EQUESTRIAN: In breach of the Olympic Charter and for the first and only time in history, except for a slight exception in 1920, the 1956 Olympics Games were held in two countries.

In April 1949, Melbourne were awarded the 1956 Olympics Games, but after the announcement the IOC became aware that Australian quarantine laws required a six-month quarantine period for competitors horses. In late 1953, after some negotiation, the Australian government ruled they would not relax the rules for the Olympics, so the IOC had no choice but to find an alternative site. At the IOC Session in May 1954, Stockholm, defeated Paris, Rio, Berlin and Los Angeles for the right to host the Olympic Equestrian events. The Games opened on 10 June 1956 and competition was conducted from 11 to 17 June. Competing were 158 participants from 29 countries.

The Opening Ceremony was unusual as competitors entered the stadium on their horses, including the flagbearer. The Australian flagbearer was Bert Jacobs who was our only competitor in the Jumping events.

Australian made its Equestrian Olympic debut at these Games in the disciplines of Eventing and Jumping. Dressage would make its Olympic debut in 1984.

The Australian Eventing team competed magnificently in their first appearance in the Olympics, placing fourth from the 19 teams. The team members and their mounts were: Brian Crago (Radar), Bunty Thompson (Brown Sugar) and Ernie Barker (Dandy).  Crago went on to be a member of the 1960 gold medal winning team. Up until 1960 the event was for men only, but from 1964 the event became mixed, allowing both genders to be team members.

NOTE: The only exception to the Games being held in one country was in 1920 when Belgium hosted the Games. The yachting events took place on the coast of Ostend, however one event was not finished at the close of the Games and was contested two months later in Amsterdam, Holland.

David Tarbotton

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