National Library of Australia

Australia and the Olympics

Olympic gold medal won by Miss Fanny Durack at Stockholm 1912

gold; diameter 3.3cm

Pictures Collection

National Library of Australia
Australia and the Olympics

The Olympics Games always delivers the unexpected.

The gold medal won by Sarah (‘Fanny’) Durack (1889–1956) at Stockholm in 1912 was on the tail of enormous opposition from some conservative quarters in Australia, who thought it was immodest for female swimmers to take part.

In 1956, the Olympic Games were held in the southern hemisphere for the first time.

John Ian Wing, a 17-year-old apprentice carpenter from Melbourne, suggested that athletes ‘must not march, but walk freely and wave to the public’ during the closing ceremony.

His idea has become an Olympic tradition and the Melbourne Olympics became known as the ‘Friendly Games’.

The 2000 Sydney Games were preceded by the most ambitious torch relay in history, a 61 000-kilometre journey from Olympia, in Greece, to the Olympic Stadium at Homebush.

The torch’s shape was inspired by the boomerang, and its colours by Sydney Harbour and the Sydney Opera House. About 14 000 were made—weighing 1.5 kilograms each and able to burn for 30 minutes (one travelled underwater for 3 minutes with a diver on the Great Barrier Reef).

About 10 000 people took part in the marathon relay, which passed within an hour’s drive of 85 percent of Australia’s population.

Like the 1956 Olympic Games and its commemorative carpet, the 2000 Sydney Games produced some unusual memorabilia. Fatso, the Fat-arsed Wombat, became the mascot of the television program ‘The Dream’ and a Fatso pin was presented to Olympians and guests appearing on the program.