Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Road to Olympics : Journey from the Past - 1956 Melbourne Games Kenya Debuts

As promised in the last post, we shall start a series of posts tracing our country's journey in Olympics Games since our début in 1956. We shall welcome any comments, views and also critique for us to make worth your while reading. Here we go;

Kenya’s First Appearance in the Olympic Games

Souvenir Programme Cover for 1956 Melbourne Olympics -
The modern Olympic Games had been ongoing for 60 years after the return of the same adopted from the Greek civilisation before Christ. With the world’s nations having recovered from the World War II, there was a feel-good factor going around the world at that time – though the Cold War was starting to threaten world peace with USSR ( Soviet Union) invading Hungary leading to Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland boycotting , while Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon boycotted the Games over the Suez Canal. China also protested Taiwan’s recognition and boycotted too.

LIFE Magazine - Dec 1956 - image courtesy of
On the other hand, more African states ( most though still under the colonial rulers mainly British) made their debut including Ethiopia, Liberia, Uganda and of course Kenya. Other seasoned African states in the form of Egypt and South Africa also were at the Melbourne city.
An issue of the northern and southern hemisphere arose threatening major boycotts since the weather in the Southern hemisphere is warmer during the latter part of the year as opposed to traditional mid-year when most Summer Olympic Games are held. There was also the issue of equine quarantine which led to equestrian (horse) events being moved to Stockholm, Sweden.

Interesting Facts:

  • 67 countries in total attended the Games
  • 3194 participants including 2824 men and 370 women)
  • 18 sporting disciplines were competed against ( though all Equestrian events were held in Stockholm)
  • 145 events were conducted
  • The Games were opened by  His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh – Prince Philip ( since Australia still recognises the British monarchy)
  • Kenya had 25 participants in 4 sports disciplines – 24 men and 1 woman. She was represented in the 4 disciplines which included; athletics, hockey, shooting and swimming.

Nyandika Maiyoro - image courtesy of
Finalists in their respective events included;

-          Nyandika Maiyoro – Athletics  5000m – 7th place

-          Arap Sam Kanuti – Athletics Marathon – 31st position

-          Joseph Lerease – High Jump – 18th position

Fun Fact:

One enthusiast sports fan by the name of Barry Larkin made a fake Olympic torch and apparently managed to fool the mayor of Sydney.

Other Sporting news in the World - 1956:
Rocky Marciano - undisputed heavyweight champion retires from boxing undefeated. 


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