Olympic Village | Heidelberg
The Olympic Village was built in Heidelberg West as accommodation for the 1956 Olympic Games held in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
The Olympic Village was built to house athletes competing in the 1956 Olympic Games, was designed as a series of 841 individual dwellings which could serve as future housing accommodation, rather than the barrack-like structures used in previous Olympics.
The Olympic Village bounded by Southern Road, Oriel Road, Dougherty Road and Liberty Parade, Heidelberg West included shops, restaurant and recreation hall, as well as large temporary buildings housing dining rooms, saunas and a bank.
The Village was home to almost 5,000 athletes and officials from 57 nations. This was an unusual athletes' village. Traditionally, Olympic teams had been housed in dormitories; here, they were allocated semi-detached houses and flats.
For the first time, women and men were housed in the same area, with only a fence to separate them. Legend has it that when male footprints were discovered on the women's side of a fence, an investigation revealed that a Greek pole vaulter in search of female company had simply leapt the fence.
I met all the famous athletes like Dawn Fraser, Lorraine Crapp, Shirley Strickland, Betty Cuthbert & Marjorie Jackson. I remember that Murray Rose was the only athlete not to stay in the Olympic Village because he was on a special diet.
I can recall all the crowds of people lining up outside for autographs and one of the athletes said to me 'I can't understand all the fuss we're just like everyone else, just normal people. But I told her that this was probably the only chance that someone would get to meet a real Olympian, it was a fantastic experience.
There also wasn't any security like nowadays although I do remember that IRAQ would not eat in the same kitchen as Iran and ended up leaving. At the end of the games even though we were volunteers, we did get paid about 3 pounds a week and we also got a special letter from Canberra. wikinorthia.net.au
This clip from Olympic Postscript, a film produced by the Postmaster-General's Department, shows the postal and telephone services in the Olympic Village.
After the Games
The area in Heidelberg West is still called "Olympic Village".
About 600 of the houses were used for public housing. The area now consists of a sports center, a primary school, shopping strip, a community health centre which also houses a registered training organization and a legal service.
In 1995 the State Government and Banyule City Council initiated an Urban Renewal and Revitalisation program, which transformed many houses that had fallen into disrepair.
Doing it tough together: Melbourne's Olympic village community
In 2015, ABC Radio broadcast a marvellous series of interviews with resident Maxine who proudly introduced the Olympic Village of today.
Nearly 60 years after Melbourne hosted the Olympic Games, those living in the former athletes village still suffer the effects of a rushed development and public housing policies of the time.
774 ABC Melbourne
By Clare Rawlinson
Nation with nation: The story of Olympic Village Heidelberg,
Olympic Games Melbourne, 1956
Authur: Geoffrey Ballard
Spectrum Publications, Melbourne, 1997.
Tells of the organisation required for the establishment of Olympic Village and the hosting of the international guests.
How about an information centre / museum?
How about information plaques outside each residence explaining who stayed there during the games?
Answer: Are the the Olympic rings over the entrance to the original Village the original rings as we heard they were moved to a wall at Banksia Secondary College.
❊ Web Links ❊
→ Olympic Village | Heidelberg
→ The Olympic spirit of West Heidelberg
→ Banyule City Council | banyule.vic.gov.au
→ 1956 Olympic Games Reflections
→ Book: Nation with nation | Geoffrey Ballard
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