Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey
The Melbourne organizers expected a record number of teams in Melbourne after several countries refused to attend the Helsinki Games in 1952.
Originally 80 countries accepted invitations to attend, but hopes of that number disappeared when war erupted between Egypt and Israel on 29 October, just over three weeks before the Games Opening Ceremony, after Egypt had seized control of the Suez Canal on 26 July.
The problem escalated when British and France, both concerned over the security of the Suez Canal joined the conflict and began aerial attacks on Egyptian targets on 31 October, followed by ground troops a few days later.
Egypt, protesting against what it termed the "cowardly aggression" of the European countries almost immediately withdrew, followed soon after by the small Iraqi and Lebanese contingents.
After elections in June, 1953 and a later revolt against the Communist regime, Soviet tanks and troops launched an attack on Budapest on 4 November, resulting in an eventual death toll of 2,500 Hungarians and an estimated 200,000 refugees (of which Australia later accepted 10,000).
The Netherlands government, which had supplied humanitarian aid to victims of the Communist repression recalled its team, already in Melbourne. Spain immediately followed by withdrawing its contingent.
The Swiss Olympic Federation voted to send a team only if all seven participating Swiss sports unanimously agreed -
The five Scandinavian countries -
Rather unfortunately, both the rival factions of mainland China and Formosa (now Taiwan) had been recognised by the I.O.C. in 1954, but political tensions between the two saw the mainland China withdraw.
Several smaller countries -
(As well as the overseas visitors, 287 Australian athletes were housed at the Village).
The international tensions impacted the Games in other areas : the traditional Torch Relay from Athens, the home of the ancient Olympic Games, was delayed because of the Egyptian crisis, and the conflict in Hungary caused their team to arrive a week later than scheduled and with a controversy over the flag they would compete under.
The Games itself saw a "blood-
Local newspapers (perhaps somewhat biased against the perceived Russian "supermen") suggested that the Russians repeatedly called the Hungarians "fascists" -
The aggression was not one-
Zador admitted many years later that on the morning of the match, the Hungarians had created a strategy to taunt the Russians, whose language they had studied in school … "We decided to try and make the Russians angry to distract them".
The incident was perhaps the first example of the all-
There was another angry demonstration the same evening by pro-
What was an extensive propaganda victory for Hungarian nationalists turned into a more tangible one the following evening when the water polo team defeated Yugoslavia 2-
Ultimately of 111 athletes that competed, 48 (including Zador) decided not to return home, although it stated that only 15 would remain in Melbourne with the rest planning to seek asylum in America. Another 13 Eastern Bloc athletes defected, mostly from Romania, but also discus-
Blood In The Water
“BLOOD IN THE WATER”
Images that rocked the “Friendly Games”!
Hungarian water polo player Ervin Zador being led from the pool by a first-
As well as television cameras The Sun News Pictorial’s Neil Howard captured the images above and below -
|The Official Programme of Events|
|The Games And The Players|
|The Fine Arts Festival|
|The Main Stadium Debate|
|The Playgrounds of Melbourne >>|
|And Those That Weren't >>|
|The Impossible Dream?|
|... Comes True|
|1954 : The Invitations|
|No Courses For Horses|
|Our First Equestrian Team|
|Blood In The Water|
|The Closing Ceremony|
|A Letter That Changed The Games|
|Heidelberg - The Village >>|
|... and Welcome to Television!|
|Day 1, Thursday, November 22|
|Day 2, Friday, November 23|
|Day 3, Saturday, November 24|
|Day 4, Monday, November 26|
|Day 5, Tuesday, November 27|
|Day 6, Wednesday, November 28|
|Day 7, Thursday, November 29|
|Day 8, Friday, November 30|
|Day 9, Saturday, December 1|
|Day 10, Monday, December 3|
|Day 11, Tuesday, December 4|
|Day 12, Wednesday, December 5|
|Day 13, Thursday, December 6|
|Day 14, Friday, December 7|
|Day 15, Saturday, December 8|
|The M.C.G. (Main Stadium)|
|The Olympic Park Complex|
|West Melbourne Stadium|
|The Exhibition Buildings|
|St. Kilda Town Hall|
|Port Phillip Bay|
|Oaklands Hunt Club|
|The Road Runners|
|Shooting in the West|
|The Beaurepaire Centre|
|Manningham Reserve, Parkville|
|And Others ...|
|A City Within the Village|
|Hungary vs Russia|
|Ballarat : The Forgotten Village|