Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey

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The Programme

The original undertaking of the Melbourne Organizing Committee prior to the successful bid was to stage a programme of events similar to that of the London Games of 1948, but in the interim, several sports introduced new events for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, and instead, the later Games became the standard for Melbourne with one exception in swimming - the separation of the original breaststroke event into two, the orthodox breaststroke and the butterfly stroke. The change applied to both men and women and thus added two events to the calendar.

In total, the Melbourne Games included 145 events - the compulsory sports under the Olympic charter were Athletics (33), Boxing (10), Cycling (6), Fencing (7), Gymnastics (15); Modern Pentathlon (2, individual and team), Rowing (7), Shooting (7), Swimming (including Diving, 17), Weightlifting (7), Wresting (freestyle, 8, Greco-Roman 8), and yachting (9).  Of these, 25 were specifically for women.

Melbourne also adopted the optional sports from the previous Games in Helsinki - Canoeing (8), and Basketball, Football, Hockey and Water Polo, all single teams events.

Under Olympic rules, Melbourne also hosted two demonstrations sports - one local, thus Australian Rules football, and one international, baseball, and there was also a compulsory Fine Arts program  

The 1956 Melbourne Olympics programme was spread over fourteen days (16 days was the maximum allowed), twelve dedicated to competition and with he Opening and Closing Ceremony days, although the latter also included the Gold Medal match in football.

In common with the conventions of the time, no events where scheduled on the two Sundays covered by the Games schedule, but very rough conditions on Lake Wendouree on Saturday, 24 November, held up the afternoon events of the day's rowing programme and it could not be completed during that day; permission was granted to complete the events on the following day.

Thirteen main venues were used, with two sections of the Pentathlon held at Oaklands around 12 miles noth-west of Melbourne and three road evets starting and ending at M.C.G.

Prices of tickets were announced in September, 1954 with sales of tickets opened in April, 1955, with considerable difficulties later arising with venues for the gymnastics and basketball subsequently changing and the original West Melbourne boxing stadium being destroyed by fire, different seating layouts occurring in each case.  

The primary outlet for tickets was established in the Myer Emporium where some 4,000 square feet of floor space was set aside.   Some 8,000 tickets per day for the Main Stadium events were set aside until September, 1956 to cater for overseas visitors, those not taken up by then were made available to the public over the counter

With the exception of athletics at the M.C.G. (daily) and the hockey and football semi-finals, tickets were sold on a per session basis, morning, afternoon or night.


Where The Crowds Went

According to ticket sale figures included in the post-Games report, the crowds on average were :

Opening Ceremony (M.C.G.) 87,733 *; Athletics (M.C.G., eight days) 82,600 *; Cycling (Olympic Park Velodrome) 7,200 *; Basketball (Exhibition Building, 24 matches) 2,520; Boxing (West Melbourne) 2,740 over 13 sessions, but adversely affected by four afternoon sessions which ranged from just 400 to 800; Canoeing (Ballarat) 1,200; Fencing (St. Kilda Town Hall, 12 sessions) 1,730 *; Football (Olympic Park, eight games) 6,070 and (M.C.G., three games excluding the final) 19,640; Gymnastics (West Melbourne, 12 sessions, 3,960 *; Hockey (Olympic Park, 12 matches) 1,750 and MCG (2) 13,210; Rowing (Ballarat, four sessions) 6,500; Swimming (Olympic Pool, 19 sessions) 4,980 *; Weightlifting (Exhibition, six sessions) 1,550; Wrestling (Exhibition, like boxing, negatively impacted by four morning sessions under 1,000) 1,860; Closing Ceremony  and Football Final  86,716 *.

* The report establishes these as the venue capacity after allocations to officials .

Sales of tickets for Shooting - clay pigeon (Laverton) and target (Williamstown), the Cycling Road Race (Broadmeadows), and the Modern Pentathlon with the exception of the Riding event (2,100) were less than 1,000.  

The Marathon except for the final circuit of the M.C.G. was "open-house" with an estimated 200,000 lining the route, as were the distance walking events although far fewer spectators.   Yachting on Port Phillip Bay was also free - no land-based enclosures were provided, but there was an area of Point Gellibrand at Williamstown established for spectator boats.

Rather surprisingly, the most expensive tickets were reserved seating on the finals night of boxing, £5/1/- for a reserved ringside seat. Other nights £3/4-; this was the maximum for the Opening Ceremony and swimming.  Also a surprise that the maximum for Athletics the Closing Ceremony was just £1/2-, unreserved sections down to 6/7d. Total ticket sales were £1,205,415, a small charge was made for practice sessions, mostly Swimming, these amounted to £26,558.

There was a minor furore when the Premier of the time, John Cain insisted that those booking tickets would have to pay the State entertainment tax, based on a sliding scale, but at two shillings per ticket on all but a few unreserved bookings.

The tyranny of distance - overseas ticket sales only came to about 110,000 of which about half were to New Zealand and the Pacific Islands, 22,000 to the U.S. and 18,000 in the U.K., leaving "the rest" with just 14,000 tickets.

(The program shown on these pages were taken from Sporting Life, a popular magazine of its time and still highly collectable  It was actually the December issue, probably released around a week before the Opening Ceremony and there may have been some minor adjustments to times’ It contained one error which should have been adjusted many weeks before publication - it showed basketball matches being played at the Glaciarium in City Road, but this did not occur after the proprietors apparently demanded £20,000 for the rent of the building; all basketball matches were played on hastily constructed courts in a disused annexe at the Exhibition Buildings.


10.05 A.M. and the Myers Olympic Box Office is open for business - contemporary reports suggest the queue extended for over half a mile.

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Above : Opening Ceremony Programme, two shillings (all others were one shilling)

Below : The official promotional poster

NOTES :

Due to Australian Quarantine restrictions, the Equestrian events were held in Stockholm, Sweden in June   The riding section of the Modern Pentathlon was conducted at Oaklands to the north of Melbourne using local horses

Due to Australian Quarantine restrictions, the Equestrian events were held in Stockholm, Sweden in June   The riding section of the Modern Pentathlon was conducted at Oaklands Junction to the north of Melbourne using local horses

The yachting events were based at several locations - the Finns class at Sandringham; Dragons and 5 5-Metre classes at Brighton; the Stars and newcomers, 12-Square Metre Sharpies, making their one and only Olympic appearance were at St Kilda .

Albert Park Lake was considered for rowing events, but was deemed by the International Olympic Committee as too shallow and too small, hence the sport moved to Lake Wendouree near Ballarat

Albert Park Lake was considered for rowing events, but was deemed by the International Olympic Committee as too shallow and too small, hence the sport moved to Lake Wendouree near Ballarat