Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey

Planning of the Closing Ceremony fell into roughly the same categories as the Opening - a march of athletes, music from bands and choirs, the ceremonial proceedings, and the extinguishing of the Olympic Flame - but given it was by nature a winding-down of the Games, less detail was foreseen and few rehearsals were held except for the music and technical testing of the means of extinguishing the gas-fired Flame.

The timing of the Ceremony and the broadcasting thereof was however somewhat dependent on the Gold Medal football match played beforehand - if a draw resulted at the end of the normal time allocated, the Olympic rules insisted on extra time being played until a result was achieved, which it was suggested could potentially delay proceedings by up to 30 or 40 minutes.

A few months before the Games, a suggestion was made by Sir Bernard Heinz, conductor of the official choir and band, that Waltzing Matilda, then perhaps recognized internationally as Australia's "real" national anthem (like it or loath either one, "Advance Australia Fair" did not replace "God Save the Queen" as the official  anthem until 1984).

As a result, the Australian poet William Tainsh was invited to write appropriate words to the air of Waltzing Matilda to be sung during the march and with the accompaniment of music by the Royal Australian Air Force band.  

Given modern-day debate over the wording of Advance Australia Fair (first performed in 1878) and its perceived bias towards the white Anglo-Saxon community, Tainsh may have been ahead of his time when he replaced "You'll come A'Waltzing Matilda with me"  with "Momok wonargo or a go-yai", Aboriginal words meaning "Farewell, brother, by-and-by come back".

Mounting the rostrum, Mr. Brundage delivered his closing remarks :

"In the name of the International Olympic Committee I offer to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, to her husband His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, to His Excellency Governor-General Field-Marshal Sir William Slim, to His Excellency Governor Sir Dallas Brooks, to Prime Minister Menzies, to Premier Bolte and to the people of Australia, to Lord Mayor Selleck and the Council of the City of Melbourne and to the Organizing Committee of the Games our deepest gratitude.

I declare the 1956 Olympic Games closed and in accordance with tradition I call upon the youth of all countries to assemble four years from now at Rome, there to celebrate with us the Games of the XVII Olympiad. May they display cheerfulness and concord so that the Olympic torch will be carried on with ever greater eagerness, courage and honour for the good of humanity throughout the ages."

After the pomp and ceremony was over, the spirit of Aussie larrikinism took over and spectators took to the arena in thousands, someone hoisting a raincoat to the top of the now-bare flagpole "on the half-forward flank" while hundreds struggled to stand for their second of glory on the top of the victory dais - were “selfies” then in vogue? -before they were unceremoniously bundled off by others.

State Parliament hosted a reception in Queen’s Hall for Australia’s Olympic team on the eve of the Closing Ceremony, and the public farewell was followed by the Australian Olympic Federation's  invitation-only farewell to Olympic officials and competitors at the Exhibition Building from 8 p.m. to midnight.

every visiting official and member of a team was invited to bring a guest, and all members of the staff of the Organizing Committee who were working with the organization in the thirty days before the commencement of the Games were given two tickets.

It was anticipated some 8,000 might attend, but with some teams having left the Village and others deep in preparation for their departure, the crowd was sratimated at a little over 4,000


1956 : The Closing Ceremony



The Last Hurrah.  Wilfred Kent Hughes, Avery Brundage and Melbourne’s Lord Mayor, Frank Selleck leave the arena with the Olympic ceremonial flag, entrusted to the City of Melbourne for safe-keeping prior to being delivered to Rome for the 1960 Olympics).

Partially obscured in the original image, they were accompanied by Mr. E. von Frenckell, representing the City of Helsinki, host of the 1952 Games who handed over custody of the flag to Selleck.

More Closing Ceremony images