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Melbourne 1956 Torch Relay Getty Images

Route design and details

Following its lighting in Olympia and a relay on Greek soil to Athens, the flame travelled by air to Australia, with stopovers along the way in Istanbul, Basra, Karachi, Calcutta, Bangkok, Singapore, Jakarta and Darwin.

From Darwin, where a reception was held, the flame was then sent by plane to Cairns, in Queensland, north-eastern Australia. After a risky landing due to low-lying clouds which made visibility difficult, the relay on the ground in Australia started on 9 November. The first torchbearer was an Australian-born individual of Greek heritage, while the second torchbearer, Anthony Mark, was an Aboriginal Australian. The relay covered the East Coast, passing through cities such as Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and finally Melbourne.

21 November: Before arriving in Melbourne, the flame passed through Ballarat, the city hosting the rowing and canoe events. Using the torch, the Mayor kindled a flame in a miniature replica of the Main Stadium’s cauldron. It burned until the closing of the Games.

The next day, the flame arrived in Melbourne, and the last torchbearer, after having done a lap of the Main Stadium, climbed the 85 steps that led up to the cauldron and lit it at 4.20 p.m during the Opening Ceremony.

Melbourne 1956 Torch IOC Description: The torch was modelled on that of London 1948. The handle ends in a ring, and the upper part in the shape of a cauldron presents the Olympic rings three times. It bears the inscription XVI Olympiad 1956: Olympia Melbourne.
Colour: Silver
Height: 47 cm with burner, 40.5 cm without
Composition: Metal, aluminium
Fuel: Hexamine in tablet form with additional naphthalene and a special igniting material. The combustion duration is 15 minutes.
Designer / Manufacturer: Ralph Lavers / Waco Ltd
Did you know? Another torch (presented above) was specially made for the Opening Ceremony in Melbourne and carried by the last torchbearer when it entered the Stadium. It is made of aluminium with a grooved handle, an openwork cauldron featuring the Olympic symbol and the inscription XVI Olympiad Melbourne 1956. So that the flame would be brighter in the Stadium, magnesium flares were used. It is 42 centimetres high.

Melbourne 1956 Relay route IOC

Start date: 2 November 1956, Olympia (Greece)
End date: 22 November 1956, Main Stadium, Melbourne (Australia)
First torchbearer: Dionyssios Papathanassopoulos
Last torchbearer: Ronald William “Ron” Clarke, Olympic participant in athletics (1964, 1968), bronze medallist in Tokyo 1964.
Number of torchbearers: 3,181.
350 in Greece, 2,831 in Australia.
Recruitment of torchbearers: To qualify, the participants had to be able to run 1 mile (1.61 km) in 7.5 minutes. For the Organising Committee, one athlete from each sport had to participate. The relay was not open to women or professional sportsmen.
Distance: ~20,470 km in total, air travel included.
4,912 km by land, including 354 km in Greece.
Countries visited: Greece, Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia

Did you know?

  • The organisers had to face numerous unexpected climate challenges and readapt the route, mainly owing to flooding in the north of Australia. However, the flame arrived in one piece and on time, thanks in particular to the fact that the relay was run day and night with few stops.
  • The flame crossed the southern hemisphere for the first time on 6 November 1956, during the flight between Singapore and Jakarta.
  • After being put on display for various charity events following the Games the cauldron was thought to be lost until 30 years later when it was discovered in a city council warehouse to the west of Melbourne and then given to the Australian Gallery of Sport.
  • Another torch was specially made for the Opening Ceremony in Melbourne and carried by the last torchbearer when it entered the Stadium. It is made of aluminium with a grooved handle, an openwork cauldron featuring the Olympic symbol and the inscription XVI Olympiad Melbourne 1956. So that the flame would be brighter in the Stadium, magnesium flares were used. It is 42 centimetres high.

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