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Melbourne 1956 - Quick hits

The Black Spider

The Soviet Union won the football tournament riding the talents of their gifted goalkeeper Lev Yashin a man who went on to become a legend in the game and was known as the "Black Spider."


For the opening ceremony the sun was blazing in Melbourne and 225 people collapsed, among them the leader of the American delegation.


Hungarian water-polo player Ervin Zador came out of the swimming pool with his face covered in blood during the semifinal match between the Soviet Union. Hungary would go on and beat the Soviet Union 4-0 in the bitterly contested game. The referee eventually stopped the clash after several incidents in which players exchanged blows. The public largely supported the Hungarians, whose homeland had just been invaded by the Soviet military.

In the final, Hungary would go on and win the gold medal defeating Yugoslavia 2-1. The USSR received the bronze medal.


Two notable Hungarian champions were absent from the Games -- the imprisoned swimmer Geza Kadas, and the decathlete Hegedus, who had been killed on the barricades during the Soviet invasion of Hungary. The Australian public cheered wildly for the Hungarian delegation during the opening ceremony while they were reserved in receiving the Americans who had refused to intervene in the dispute.

Friendly liaisons

American hammer-thrower Harold Connolly left Melbourne with something extra to go with his gold medal and a new Olympic record -- a wedding ring and a new wife. During the Games, Connolly drew international attention for his deepening friendship with Czech discus champion Olga Fikotova. The Iron Curtain relented and the couple were joined by 40,000 well-wishers at their civil ceremony in Prague. They later moved to the USA, where they divorced in 1973.


The American basketball team was led by Bill Russell who went on to become one of the greats in the NBA and helped the Boston Celtics win 11 NBA titles.

Unique treble

Hungarian boxer Laszlo Papp pulled off the rare feat of winning his third straight boxing gold medal.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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