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Souvenir napkin of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games

Date: 1956
Overall: 175 x 175 mm, 0.03 kg
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Tools and equipment
Object Name: Napkin
Object No: 00019336
Place Manufactured:Australia

User Terms

    The design on this souvenir napkin is divided into four quadrants, each with a green and yellow map of Australia crossed with an Oylmpic torch. Around the perimeter of the stamp are 32 flags in the form of shields representing the participating countries.
    SignificanceThis napkin was produced to commemorate the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, a source of great pride and participation in Australian society. The scale and impact of the games is reflected in the amount and variety of souvenirs that were generated by this event, while the Olympic spirit of goodwill is represented in the repeated use of national and international iconography.
    History1956 was the year that the Olympic Games came to Australia. Despite a turbulent lead up, the games closed as a triumph for the host city, Melbourne, and also marked the beginning of a golden era of Australian Olympic sporting success.

    The games occurred amidst a marked period of change, both politically and technologically. They were the first Olympic Games to be held in the Southern Hemisphere, outside of Europe or the United States. The Melbourne games were also the first to involve television coverage, connecting the event to national and international audiences with new speed and intimacy.

    Most importantly for Australians, the games showcased the country’s sporting strength and cemented the careers of iconic athletes such as Dawn Fraser, Murray Rose and Betty Cuthbert whose efforts contributed to one of the country’s most successful Olympic campaigns ever. Coming in third on the medal table, Australia’s haul comprised of 35 medals: 13 gold, 8 silver and 14 bronze.

    The games are perhaps best remembered by Australians for the young and talented swimming team who shone in the pool. Competing in her first Olympics, a young Dawn Fraser won gold medals in the 100 and 4x100m freestyle events and a silver in the 400m freestyle – breaking several records along the way. Murray Rose collected three gold medals in the 400m, 1500m and 4x200m freestyle events.

    In the athletics, Betty Cuthbert earned her nickname of ‘Golden Girl’, winning the 100m and 200m sprints as well as the team 4x100m relay. Shirley Strickland wound down her athletic career with wins in two events, the 80m hurdles and the 4x100m relay.

    Aside from the swimming and athletics, Australia also enjoyed successes in cycling, sailing and canoe/kayak and debuted teams in a variety of sports such as basketball and football.

    The Melbourne Olympic Games also coincided with a number of international political issues and fell within the era of the Cold War. The Soviet Union had invaded Hungary only weeks before the opening ceremony and several countries withdrew their participation in protest of the Soviet presence at the games. Additionally, the People’s Republic of China boycotted the event due to The Republic of Chinas (Taiwan) participation. Several other countries also withdrew in protest against the invasion of Egypt by Israel, the UK and France after nationalizing the Suez Canal.

    Despite the International tensions, or perhaps because of them, the 1956 Olympics were known as the ‘Friendly Games’. A new concept was introduced during the Closing Ceremony for athletes to walk together, mingling, rather than marching separately as countries. This change had been at the suggestion of a Melbourne schoolboy, John Ian Wing, and has since become an Olympic tradition.

    Successfully showcasing Australia on a global stage, the 1956 Melbourne Olympics crossed international boundaries and left Australia an enduring legacy of sporting achievement and national pride.

    Additional Titles

    Web title: Souvenir napkin of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games


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