Melbourne Olympics, 1956 – Fact sheet 57

Opening Ceremony - 1956 Melbourne Olympics
Opening Ceremony - 1956 Melbourne Olympics (A8763, KN3672)

Conducted against the backdrop of the Suez crisis and the Hungarian Revolution, the Melbourne Olympics commenced 22 November 1956. The Games were centred around the Melbourne Cricket Ground and in terms of gold medals, were one of the most successful ever for Australian athletes. Competitors such as Betty Cuthbert, Shirley Strickland, Murray Rose and Dawn Fraser dominated their events and television, introduced in Australia in time to broadcast the events, made sure their success became part of Australian sporting history.

Record holdings

Files held by the Archives though, tend not to deal with athletic successes. The majority are administrative records created by the Prime Minister's Department, which was responsible for coordinating the Commonwealth government's role in the organisation of the Games. The bulk of these records are on our RecordSearch database, which can be accessed in any of our reading rooms, but some selected items are described below.

Examples of Prime Minister's Department and Cabinet Office records

Security records

Due to the nature of contemporary world events and the general political climate of the time, a number of files concerning the Games were created by Australia's security organisations, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Commonwealth Investigation Service. These include the following records.

Security records

External Affairs records

The Department of External Affairs was also involved in the arrangements for the Games. The Soviet Union had not had diplomatic representation in Australia for several years, but the Department sought to have this policy revoked for the duration of the Olympics. The Department was also involved when the Hungarian team applied for political asylum.

External Affairs records

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemOlympic Games – policy – general1954–56A1838, 1603/1 part 1
ItemConsular representatives in Australia – USSR – re two consular officers for Melbourne Olympic Games1956A1838, 1515/1/58/1
ItemPolitical asylum – Hungarian Olympic Team in Melbourne1956–58A1838, 1606/4

Records of Olympic organising committees

Numerous records created by the various committees of the Organising Committee of the 16th Olympiad are also held by the Archives. These records are held within series AA1967/379, and are all listed on  RecordSearch. Amongst these records are papers of the following committees:

  • Finance and General Purpose Committee
  • Executive Committee
  • Communications and Broadcasting
  • Construction Committee
  • Press and Publicity Sub-Committee
  • Winding-Up Committee.

Visual and audio records

Use the Archives' PhotoSearch database to locate photographs of the Melbourne Olympics taken by the former Australian news and Information Bureau (ANIB). Relevant ANIB correspondence files are also held in series A6895. Some examples of items are listed in the table below.

Sound recordings.
Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) audio recordings of key events from the Olympics are also held. Some examples are listed below.

Files about photographs and film

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemOlympic Games – Olympic news releases1954–57A6895, N56/182
ItemOlympic Games film1954–59A6895, N56/173
ItemOlympic Games – tourism by-products1955A6895, N56/180
ItemLewis Luxton Olympic Games – TV1955–57A6895, N56/176 part 1

Sound recordings

* located in Sydney

Viewing the records

All records referred to in this fact sheet are available to the public in our reading room in Canberra, except those marked with an asterisk (*), which are located in Sydney.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2018