Compiled for OzSportsHistory by Brian Membrey
The equestrian events at the Olympics presented a unique problem -
Melbourne's bid document, although elaborately presented, contained little detail on individual sports -
Certainly the bid committee were aware that the equestrian events were a traditional and integral part of the Games calendar, but there was no mention of horses from overseas or Australian quarantine laws in the final presentation or later at meeting of the I.O.C. meeting in November, 1949.
It is believed that Harold Luxton at a later in May, 1950 referred to equestrian events being "held in the main stadium and excellent picturesque hunting country". but still with no reference to long-
The likely problem appears to have been raised from an unlikely source, Mr. W Berge Phillips, secretary of the Australian Swimming Union, reported as saying that he had been told during the London Games that it took three years to train a horse for the events and that under current quarantine laws. probably only England and New Zealand could send horses; adding a rather far-
("Foreign" animals had no direct means of entry. The only way they could arrive in Australia was to serve six months' quarantine in the United Kingdom and on production of a clean bill of health after that period, they were allowed entry into any Commonwealth country. The same restriction applied to Australian horses travelling overseas and for that reason, there had never been an Australian equestrian team prior to the Melbourne Games, although a six-
In June, 1950, Wilfred Kent Hughes urged an approach by the O.O.C. to the Federal Government to discuss quarantine regulations, but what is not absolutely clear is when the International Committee became aware of the quarantine problem.
At least one country came up with a novel possible solution -
In February, 1953 and around the time the dispute over the main stadium was nearing settlement, the Games were again under threat; the three-
Arthur Coles admitted that the equestrian issue remained as Melbourne's "Achilles heel" and suggested Melbourne was about "6 to 4" to retain the Games, and added that the likely replacement, Mexico City faced to same quarantine problem. Hugh Weir, one of the delegates to the I.O.C. suggested that he had asked the Olympic Council the pertinent question: "If Australia's quarantine regulations were all lifted, could all countries afford the cost of sending horses to Australia for equestrian events?", and that no one could answer the question.
Significantly, the U.S. equestrian withdrew around the same time; France a week later, suggesting prohibitive costs as the primary reason.
Several approaches were made to Sir Earle Page, the Federal Health Minister who reiterated the ban would not be lifted, proposing instead that sufficient number of horses from the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia could be assembled and trained prior to the Games. This idea was mooted a few times, but showed a rather naïve understanding of the equestrian concept which requires a complete understanding, almost a harmony, between rider and animal.
In August, 1953 the acting chairman of the Games Organising Committee, Mr Lewis Luxton refuted what he called a "mischievous report" attributed to the I.O.C. in Lausanne that there would be no equestrian events following Australia's refusal to lift the quarantine ban, suggesting that Australia, England, Ireland and New Zealand were guaranteed entry, and that provided two other entries were received, the events would proceed as planned in Melbourne. (I.O.C. Rule 42 demanded that entries from a minimum of six nations were required before any Games event could be staged).
Suggestions had been made that the equestrian events should be held in a European venue -
In December, Avery Brundage arrived in London on his way to an I.O.F. meeting in Lausanne and suggested the Australian Government's quarantine laws made the holding of the events impossible and that some eleven European and seven American cities had offered sites. The meeting was called to set an agenda for a full meeting of the I.O.F in Athens in May at which it was expected the fate of the Melbourne Olympics would be decided.
Lord Burghley (The Marquess of Exeter) , British delegate on the committee and one of the two vice-
A new D-
The International Equestrian Federation recommended to Brundage that the events be moved, but made no suggestions as to a possible site -
Massad stated that he realised that such drastic action by the executive committee would need to be unanimous, but he could not agree with the failure of the group to take more forceful action on the equestrian issue, quoting promises made by the Melbourne organisers in Mexico City the previous year to do their best to eliminate the quarantine as "a violation of good faith” as well as a breaking of Olympic regulations. He declared his intention to raise the issue again prior to the crucial full meeting of the I.O.C. in May.
Prior to the crucial May meeting, it was suggested that I.O.C. committee (of 42) were split into two factions -
The vote to alter the I.O.C. requirement for the host city to also stage the equestrian events required a two-
What is not clear is when the I.O.C. became aware of the problems facing the equestrian events.
Kent Hughes suggested he was unaware as to whether quarantine restrictions were mentioned in Rome in 1949, and suggested in a letter to Harold (later Sir Harold) Alderson, then chairman of the Australian Olympic Federation that whilst Melbourne was keen to hold the events, no other country would be prepared to break down their quarantine regulations at the risk of endangering their own livestock, at the same time pointing out that Australia had never been able to compete in equestrian events for that reason.
In turn, both Mayer and Sigrid Edstrom, head of the I.O.C. at the time of Melbourne's bid both claimed that the first time that had been made aware of the quarantine difficulty was during the 1952 Games in Helsinki.
No Courses For Horses!
|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|