Young Australian sprinter Bendere Oboya reveals special moment by holding Melbourne Olympic torch in 1956

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It’s been 65 years since the Olympics defined a nation. Melbourne has been the catalyst for so many changes, and for a current Australian athlete on her first visit to the MCG, that legacy has not been lost.

Bendere Oboya became the link between Australia’s Olympic past and future when she stood at the CWM with the torch that lit the Olympic flame in Melbourne 65 years ago.

The Tokyo Olympian – born in the year of the Sydney Games, who still hopes to compete when Brisbane hosts the Olympics in 2032 – is new to Melbourne, just as she was to Australia when she landed on these shores with his family from Ethiopia at the age of three.

The Melbourne Games, which opened on November 22, 1956, kicked off a 17-day celebration of sport that would help define Australia as a sporting nation.

The first Olympic Games, held in the Southern Hemisphere, would become known as the “Friendly Games” and changed the nature of the movement although they were held only a decade after the end of World War II and in a context international challenge of the Suez crisis and Hungary. Revolution.

Australia dominated in the pool and on the track, spawning a ‘golden generation’ of heroes from Dawn Fraser and Murray Rose to Betty Cuthbert, to Ron Clarke, who lit the cauldron and John Landy, who recited the Olympic oath. .

And the legacy has not been lost for a new generation of athletes.

“When we held the torch we had to put our gloves on so it was a pretty special moment,” said Oboya, who ran the 400m in Tokyo and recently moved to Melbourne to get in touch with the coach of Peter Bol in order to progress. 800m for the Paris Olympics.

“It was my first time at MCG too, so holding the torch was an amazing part of my day.

“When I found out (the Olympics) 65 years ago, it just makes you look back and go, wow.

“This stadium was packed, there were people upstairs and downstairs and I’m there, right downstairs where the Olympic action was being held, so it was pretty surreal.”

Neither the 400m nor the 800m were run on the ashy track by women in Melbourne, with just nine events on the track and field program, although Australia dominated, winning four gold medals.

Three of them went to Betty Cuthbert, who received a medal in her honor by Athletics Australia in 2018, for the best individual performance at a national championship.

“It’s pretty amazing how much women have improved over the years,” Oboya said.

“It really shows what the women had to overcome – if you look at the Olympics now, we have the 1500m, the 800m, so the women have come a really long way and I think it just gives the little girls the power to step up and pursue their dreams once they see us.

Cuthbert’s efforts certainly motivated Oboya.

“You see other people winning medals and it’s really inspiring because they’re in the same country as you – it might not be the same event, but it could be you, so that’s me. really inspires to work towards this goal in the next Olympics, ”she said.

The Melbourne Games paved the way for many athletes – from aspiring Australian athletes to potential host cities, TV shows and a new path for athletes to mingle after the suggestion of student John Ian Wing forever changed the Olympic Closing Ceremonies.

And Oboya is hoping the next Australian Games could do the same in a country with a new look.

“I’m all about diversity and seeing a lot of different people coming together to represent Australia, seeing different colors. It has definitely changed over the years, I think, ”he said.

“So watching the Games in (Brisbane), it’s going to be amazing to see that involvement.

“It’s going to be crazy, exciting at the same time.

“And it’s going to remind me of the memory I had holding that torch (Melbourne).”


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