Australian Screen

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Australia Post – Olympic Post Script (1956)

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clip Preparation education content clip 1, 3

This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

This clip gives an overview of the setting up of telephone, telegraph and broadcast equipment prior to the commencement of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. The Duke of Edinburgh opens the Games on 22 November 1956.

Curator’s notes

As the commentary at the beginning of this clip states, ‘Here in a young city in the new world were to be held the age old Olympic Games.’ Communications operations at the Games are promoted by the film as very much part of the young and new, and the PMG as a dynamic organisation with the most current technologies at its disposal. The clip talks about the new installation requirements for television broadcast, and shows the laying of cables and communications hardware during venue construction. Teams of Defence personnel were seconded to assist with the PMG’s operations, and the Post Office worked in close conjunction with the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (OTC) and the national and commercial broadcasters.

The clip contains shots of the Olympic venues around Melbourne, including the newly enhanced MCG – the pre-existence of which was one of the reasons Melbourne won the 1956 bid. The clip ends with the Opening Ceremony and what must have been an absolutely exhilarating moment for the PMG technicians – the first few images of the Olympic Games that were to be broadcast to the world (albeit belatedly). The clip then cuts to the Duke of Edinburgh opening the Games.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This black-and-white clip shows footage of the Olympic host city, Melbourne – its streets, its Yarra River and its modes of transport, followed by scenes showing the telecommunications systems for the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne being prepared. This preparation included the installation of telecommunication cables and broadcast equipment at various venues. The clip shows the ABC television broadcast vans and concludes with the black-and-white televised footage of the Opening Ceremony with Prince Phillip declaring the Games open.

Educational value points

  • This clip comes from a film sponsored by the Postmaster-General’s Department (now divided into Australia Post and Telstra) designed to celebrate and promote the achievement of a telecommunications system for the 1956 summer Olympics in Melbourne that was modern and of an international standard. The Games, the first to be held in Australia and in the southern hemisphere, were seen as a chance to prove Australia could stage a world-class event.
  • The 1956 Olympic Games was the largest event staged in Australia up to that time and, as the narrator says, the great task for those working on the communications system was ‘telling the world the story of the Olympics’. Such was the scale of the communications operation that Games organisers called on defence force staff for assistance, mainly to operate teleprinters and act as radio technicians.
  • In the lead up to the 1956 Olympics, as the clip illustrates, telecommunications were developed to meet increased demand, particularly from the international media. For example, underground cables were laid linking venues with Melbourne telephone exchanges, which were also expanded. The Overseas Telecommunications Commission (later Telstra) upgraded and increased transmission and receiving stations that dealt with international calls and telegrams.
  • Today satellite technology and the internet makes communication instant, but in 1956 international communication as seen in this clip was much slower. The international media sent reports by telephone, telegram or telex, while radio broadcasts were transmitted by a radio–telephone link. The telex machine sent and exchanged messages via a telephone line with the messages printed by a teleprinter on strips of paper.
  • The 1956 Olympics, which ran from 22 November to 8 December, were the first to be televised live, although only to a Melbourne audience. There were no satellites so the footage was flown both interstate and overseas and telecast after the event, which meant that audiences in other countries had to wait several days before seeing the coverage. Although the Games hastened the introduction of television in Australia, only about 5,000 homes had television sets in 1956.
  • The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) served as the main stadium for the 1956 Olympic Games, and the clip contrasts an aerial view of it during the Opening Ceremony with a painting of the MCG in about 1860 to illustrate Australia’s evolution into an advanced, modern country. An epic soundtrack, particularly the fanfare accompanying the aerial shot of the stadium, and the narrator’s references to the complex communications system, reinforce this idea.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

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