The Olympic Games in Princes Park?

Prince Parks Olympics
Jeff Atkinson

In the 1950s, as Melbourne was preparing to host the 1956 Olympic Games there were discussions and negotiations over where the main stadium for the Games would be.

The contenders were the Showgrounds, the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the Carlton Football Ground in Princes Park.

The Showgrounds were the first to be eliminated as being unsuitable, followed by the MCG where the conversion of the arena was considered to be engineeringly impractical. This left the stadium in Princes Park as the venue of choice, although it would need to be upgraded.

On March 24, 1952, the Melbourne City Council voted nine to one for the main venue for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games to be a 100,000-seat new stadium in Princes Park. The cost of this would be shared by the Federal Government (50 per cent), Victorian Government (25 per cent) and the council (25 per cent).

However, there were certain parties who were not happy with this decision.

The Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, a long-time supporter of the Carlton Football Club, favoured this choice, but the Victorian State Premier John Cain (Senior) did not – he believed that the cost of re-developing the venue in Princes Park was too expensive.

At a conference of the organising committee on February 2, 1953, all interested parties except the Premier supported the Princes Park project. But Mr. Cain forced the issue by declaring that no State Government funds would be made available if the Games were to be based in Princes Park.

Rather than run the risk of losing the Games, the others then fell into line and agreed to the Melbourne Cricket Ground being the main venue. Not surprisingly the switch created considerable resentment at the Carlton Football Club.

Three years later, in November 1956, athlete Ron Clarke lit the flame that heralded the opening of the 1956 Olympic Games at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Some Olympic events were, however, held at the Carlton Football Ground in Princes Park.

In the years that followed there were some significant redevelopments of the grounds, but not on the scale that would have occurred if it had become the main venue for the 1956 Olympic Games. •

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