MELBOURNE 1956

  • Date of Lighting: November 2, 1956
  • Colour of the torch: silver
  • Height: 47cm
  • Weight: 960kg
  • Number of torches: 400
  • Number of torchbearers: 3.118
  • First torchbearer: Dionyssios Papathanassopoulos (civilian)
  • Last torchbearer: Ron Klarke
  • Countries crossed: Greece, Australia
  • Kilometres: 20.470

It was the only time that two Olympic Flames were lit in a year. Australian organisers had refused to import the riding horses, so the IOC decided the equestrian event would be held in Stockholm before the Olympic Games.

This meant that two cities hosted the Games, even though a single event was held in one of them. Takis Konstantinidis, a middle-distance race champion, was the first torchbearer, while Swedish cavalry captain Hans Wikne was the last torchbearer. Wikne lit the Flame riding on horseback.

Some 160 riders from 16 equestrian clubs from Sweden and Demark held the torch. After Wikne had lit the torch, two famous Swedish Olympic gold medallists lit two smaller cauldrons placed on the Olympic stadium’s two towers. It was Karin Lindberg, a gold medallist gymnast at the 1952 Games and Henry Ericsson, a gold medallist in the 1,500 metres’ event at the 1948 Games.

Later in the same year, it was Melbourne’s turn. Greece’s popular actress Aleka Mazaraki-Katseli was the High Priestess at the opening ceremony for the Berlin 1936 Games. The Olympic Flame arrived in Australia where Greece’s Constantinos Verevis had been picked as the first torchbearer in a purely symbolic action, as an honour to the country which gave birth to the Olympics.

The torch’s shape was similar to the London Olympics’ torch, designed by Ralph Lovers. The last torch runner held a different torch, created by Ron Clarke. The runner had to walk up some 85 stairs before lighting the altar. In Australia, a severe storm forced the organisers to keep the flame for quite a long time in the escort team’s van.