Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey

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Playgrounds : West Parkville

Prior to the announcement of the extended development of Olympic Park, the O.O.C. received a proposal from a private promoter, Ted Waterford with an offer to build Melbourne's first indoor stadium at the site at a cost of over £350,000 which he would be prepared to lease for the Games and control afterwards.

Waterford for a number of years had operated a cycling track in North Essendon which was established when the old Exhibition track closed just before the Second World War, and while there is little documented of either the offer or the O.O.C. response, Waterford was quoted the following year as saying that he had received "no satisfaction" regarding Olympic Park.

This came when he proposed to Melbourne City Council an alternative site for the stadium at the Manningham Street Reserve in West Parkville at the north-western end of Royal Park, by which time he taken control of two other cycling tracks, at Geelong West (clay) and at Norwood in Adelaide.

Waterford suggested cycling, tennis, basketball, athletics, and hockey could be held at the proposed indoor stadium. He also envisaged the staging of ice ballet, skating, circuses, public rallies and musical shows at the venue which would house up to 12,000 people.

The application to build the stadium at Royal Park came before the City Council's parks and gardens committee in June and was deferred one month.

The plan was rejected some three months later by the City Council's Parks and Gardens Committee on the basis that it  had its own £45,000 development in progress on the site with £11,000 already spent on a cycling track with further plans for two all-purpose ovals, 180 by 145 yards, landscaped gardens and picnic facilities.

There were rumours that the committee's decision was influenced by the State Government’s opposition to the plan with fears that the new stadium would be a counter-attraction to the Olympic Park re-development.

The Council’s site was east of Manningham Street and Oak Road to the Coburg-Fawkner railway line running through Royal Park; whether facility was ever completed seems unlikely with redevelopment of Olympic Park.

Whether Waterford could have attracted Olympic events if the stadium had gone ahead was at best doubtful; most of the proposed venues had been allocated, the O.O.C. had a history of avoiding any dealings with professional entities (although it happily accepted the West Melbourne Stadium), and Waterford (previously a prominent cyclist) was somewhat "on the nose" with amateur officials for allegedly convincing Australian champion cyclist Russell Mockridge to turn professional after he returned from the Helsinki Olympics in 1952, a deal that hindsight tells us may have been in fact negotiated before the Games.

After winning two Gold Medals at the 1950 Commonwealth Games in Auckland (after which he created a sensation by quitting both cycling and his job to prepare for the Anglican ministry via an Arts degree at Melbourne University, although he  subsequently abandoned the plan and returned to the track just over a year later), Mockridge was a certainty to be included in the Helsinki Games.

The A.O.F., however, required competitors to sign a £750 fidelity bond to remain amateur for two years after the Games. Mockridge refused to sign, the impasse broken when a benefactor (the Mayor of Geelong where Mockridge lived and worked as a journalist with the Geelong Advertiser) guaranteed the money if the A.O.F. would reduce the amateur term to a year.

The A.O.F. eventually agreed, although against the wishes of their Chairman, Edgar Tanner, and in Helsinki, Mockridge became Australia's first dual cycling gold medallist, winning the 1000 metre time trial and the 2000 metre tandem with Lionel Cox.

Mockridge and Cox were both declared professionals by the Victorian amateur Cyclist's Union in late February, 1953.

A few days later, Waterford made offers to both cyclists - Cox was noted as planning to lodge an appeal against the V.A.C.U. decision, but Mockridge declared he would not, saying he was uncertain whether he forfeited the bond as he "was compelled" to become a professional, and adding that he was disgusted with the decision ... "The action and attitude of the V.A.C.U. is typical of the officialdom holding up planning progress of the Olympic Games in Melbourne".

 

Above : The North Essendon cyclin track, circa early 1950’s.

Below : Mockridge (front) and Cox after their victory in the tandem victory in Helsinki.

Described as an introverted loner, Mockridge was also congenitally shortsighted and always rode in specially fitted spectacles.

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