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The Soviet Union arrived in force for the first Olympics staged south of the equator, with the exception of the equestrian events which were held in Stockholm because of Australia's strict quarantine rules.

Vladimir Kuts, a sailor from Ukraine, ground out remorseless victories in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres, two of the 37 gold medals garnered by the Soviet Union who won 98 medals in all compared to the United States's 74.

A Cold War battle was fought in the swimming pool, an extension of the bloodshed in Budapest when Soviet tanks crushed a brief Hungarian uprising.

Blood was spilt during the water polo semi-final between Hungary and the Soviet Union as the players punched each other above the water and kicked out below. Hungary eventually won 4-0 and went on to take the gold medal.

Australia flourished in the pool, winning eight golds, four silvers and two bronzes while 18-year-old Betty Cuthbert completed a 100-200 double on the track for the host nation.



** Melbourne, Australia was awarded the Olympic Games in 1949 by just one vote over Buenos Aires, Argentina.

** For the first time ever the 1956 Games were held in the Southern Hemisphere.

** For the first and only time, contrary to the Olympic Charter, a sport was detached from the main Games and held elsewhere. Due to the stringent animal quarantine laws Australia could not hold the equestrian events. So this event was held at Stockholm, Sweden almost five months before the start of the actual Games at Melbourne.

** The actual Games in 1956 was opened at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the venue of the first ever Test match in 1877.

** American runner Shirley de la Hunty (nee Stickland) ended her three Games career in 1956 with a total of seven medals (three gold, one silver and three bronze). A photo-finish picture unearthed after many years indicated that she was placed third and not fourth in the 200m sprint in the 1948 Games. But since she made no official claims the original result stands (Incidentally the bronze in 1948 was claimed by another American Audrey Patterson).

** Frenchman Alain Mimoun was just one month short of his 36th birthday when he won the 1956 marathon, making him the oldest in Olympic history to win the event.

** For the first time in the history of the marathon saw a false start in this event during the 1956 Games.

** Georgios Roubanis of Greece during the 1956 Games for the first to introduce the fiberglass pole to the pole vault competition.

** In the 1956 Games American Pat McCormick achieved an unique double 'double' by retaining both her diving titles from the previous Games at Helsinki.

** Hungarian boxer Laszlo Papp in 1956 created history by winning his third gold medal, to become the first to do so.

** American bantamweight weightlifter Charles Vinci during the 1956 Games found himself overweight, about 200 grams over the weight limit with only fifteen minutes before the weigh-in. A severe last minute haircut allowed him to qualify. He went on to win the gold and set a world record.

** The US basketball team during the 1956 Games put up the most dominant performance in Olympic history by scoring more than twice as much as their opponents and winning each of their games by at least 30 points.

** A month after the Soviet invasion of Hungary, both the countries met in the 1956 water polo final. The game degenerated into a brawl before being halted with the latter leading 4-0. Incidentally 45 members of the Hungarian delegation refused to return to their occupied country after the Games.

** For the first time in the Olympics, athletes entered en masse - a symbol of global unity - at the closing ceremony of the 1956 Games. The idea for this had come from an Australian-born Chinese boy, John Wang, in a letter to the chairman of the organizing committee.

** A happy postscript to the 1956 Games occurred in Prague in March 1957 when American hammer-throw gold medallist Harold Connolly married the Czech Olympic discus champion Olga Fikotova.


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