Which was the first Olympic Games held in the Southern Hemisphere?

The revival of the Olympic Games, in 1896, was due to the creativity and endeavour of several people, not least Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin. On June 23, 1894, Coubertin organised the inaugural Olympic Congress at Sorbonne University, which led to the foundation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). One of the stated aims of the Olympic Movement was, and still is, ‘to bring together the athletes of the world in a great quadrennial festival of sports thereby creating international respect and goodwill’. Olympia, on the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece, was the home of the ancient Olympic Games, believed to date back to 776 BCE. Hence, Athens, capital of the Hellenic Republic, was unanimously chosen as the host city for the Games of the I Olympiad .

Thereafter, notwithstanding cancellations in 1940 and 1944, the next twelve Olympic Games were staged exclusively in the Northern Hemisphere and, with the exceptions of St. Louis in 1904 and Los Angeles in 1932 – both of which are, of course, in North America – exclusively in Europe. The first Olympic Games held in the Southern Hemisphere were, in fact, the Games of the XVI Olympiad, staged in Melbourne, Australia in late November and early December, 1956. In fact, only two cities, both in the Southern Hemisphere, made it to the final round of bidding, with Melbourne selected as the host city ahead of Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina.

Eight nations boycotted the Games, for various reasons, and equestrian events were held in Stockholm, Sweden the previous June because of Australian quarantine restrictions but, overall, the competiton was considered a huge success, despite the low number of participants. That said, violence erupted in the so-called ‘Blood in the Water’ water polo match between Hungary and the Soviet Union, which took place in the wake of the Hungarian Uprising, a popular insurrection that led to a Soviet invasion of the country in early November.

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