Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey

The first concept of the possibility of Melbourne hosting an Olympic Games came in January, 1946 where former Lord Mayor, prominent business man and highly respected sporting administrator and former Olympian Sir Frank Beaurepaire suggested that a new stadium of considerable size and capable of training athletes of all sort would have to be built in Melbourne for the city to have any chance of hosting such an event.

Beaurepaire suggested that the old Olympic Park site of 25 acres - known since the early 1930’s as the Motordrome with aa banked concrete motorcycle track - in Batman-avenue would be a suitable site - by today's standards (and even those ten years later in 1956) were modest; a stadium with s seating capacity of 50,000; a straight track long enough to permit a 75-yard sprint, and a circular track for middle and long distance running enclosing a field that could be adapted for hockey, soccer or basketball.  

(The Motordrome did in fact host many Victorian Football Association matches including finals in the earle 1930’s and the Melbourne Football Club played a handful of games there when the M.C,G, was being re-graded).

He further suggested an all-year-round swimming pool with seating accommodation for 2,000 could be built as an annexe to the main stadium, at the same time described the ignorance of the Australian public to training facilities as "amazing', citing the lead given by American and European universities and cities and their success in taking Games medals because of the training available ... "Australia would get nowhere until she did the same".

Redevelopment of the site had also been a long-held dream of the Victorian Amateur Athletic Association, headed by chairman, Mr C. R. “Ron” Aitken.

Whether by design or sheer fortune, Beaurepaire's plea coincided with an athletics meeting a few weeks later to honour sportsmen that had fallen during the war years; by the time the meeting took place, there was talk of a "Memorial Stadium" - according to the Sporting Globe rather optimistically  "that has to be something more than a few running tracks, a dressing room and a thousand or two spectators ... as a National Shrine, it must be a civic community centre - a British Wembley and Albert Hall combined, a place where 150,000 can witness an event in comfort".

The article suggested that the sponsors - by now Beaurepaire and key political figures - believed the stadium could be completed in time for a bid for the 1952 Games and there was a rather hopeful proposal by another former Lord Mayor, Sir Frank Nettlefold that if all sporting institutions approved a levy "from the smallest cricket club to the greatest racing club" of 2/- per member, it would raise a considerable sum and leave the donor with a feeling that he or she had a personal share in the project.

February, 1946

A preliminary plan providing for two arenas, a swimming pool, diving pool and a court of athletic assembly" was put to the Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey, Mr Leslie W. “Bill” Galvin the following month with a view to its eventual use as an Olympic Games centre, for Pan-Pacific games or the proposed South-West Pacific games (which never eventuated). Galvin's response was guarded, suggesting he would seek a Government grant towards the stadium "and war memorial to sportsmen" and promising a conference of the park committee of management to discuss the possible reconstitution of the committee.

The ambitious plan seems to have stalled almost as soon as it was floated, perhaps in part because the Australian Olympic Federation had not met since 1939 with its former president Mr. J. R. Taylor having died in the interim.

June, 1946

Based on the likelihood and the "new" Olympic Park,  June, 1946, a meeting of the Victorian Olympic Council (V.O.C) under chairman W. J. “Bill” Bill Uren, chairman of the Victorian Olympic Council considered and approved unanimously a motion put by Ron Aitken  "We apply for the Games" .

The request was transmitted to the Australian Olympic Federation and  the International Olympic Council by Mr. Edgar Tanner, Honorary Secretary of the Council; there appears to have been some confusion surround the application – the reply from Mr J. Sigfrid Edstrom, then acting president of the I.O.F. explained that Games were never given to a country, only a city (a concept rarely understood even today) and asked that the city be named. Tanner's cable alleged was just one word "Melbourne".

June 1947

Melbourne's Olympic bid was officially announced in June, 1947 by the Lord Mayor, Cr. Francis Connelly (from 1948, Sir Francis) at the opening of an appeal for funds to send a team to London the following year (as an interesting aside, it is recorded that a suggestion that the influential and wealthy Melbourne Cricket Cub was asked to contribute £100 was recorded in their minute book as “no action taken”.  Connelly suggested that as several American cities had already bid for the 1952 Games - which ultimately went to Helsinki - that he considered an early application for the 1956 Games was a more realistic goal.

By this time, Beaurepaire had become directly involved as the newly-created office of Chairman of the V.O.C.

Two panels were established, working in conjunction with the A.O.F. – a publications sub-committee under Edgar Doyle, a former managing editor of The Argus, producing an "Invitation Book”, ultimately sent to all I.O.C. delegates and other interested parties; the other a financial sub-committee under Beaurepaire. The  publication in the Official Report following the Games was described thus …  

"The original de-luxe invitation book, limited to 500 copies and circulated among heads of State and members of the International Olympic Committee and national sporting bodies, had already become a collectors' piece in Europe. This white suede-bound volume bearing in enamel the Coat of Arms of the City of Melbourne, was distributed before the 1948 Games in London".



1946-47 : The Impossible Dream

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