Following its lighting in Olympia and a relay on Greek soil to Athens, the flame travelled by air to Australia, with stopovers along the way in Istanbul, Basra, Karachi, Calcutta, Bangkok, Singapore, Jakarta and Darwin.
From Darwin, where a reception was held, the flame was then sent by plane to Cairns, in Queensland, North-Eastern Australia. After a risky landing due to low-lying clouds which made visibility difficult, the relay on the ground in Australia started on 9 November. The first torchbearer was an Australian-born individual of Greek heritage, while the second torchbearer, Anthony Mark, was an Aboriginal Australian. The relay covered the East Coast, passing through cities such as Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and finally, Melbourne.
21 November: Before arriving in Melbourne, the flame passed through Ballarat, the city hosting the rowing and canoe events. Using the torch, the Mayor kindled a flame in a miniature replica of the Main Stadium’s cauldron. It burned until the closing of the Games.
The next day, the flame arrived in Melbourne, and the last torchbearer, after having done a lap of the Main Stadium, climbed the 85 steps that led up to the cauldron and lit it at 4:20 p.m. during the Opening Ceremony.
Start date: 2 November 1956, Olympia (Greece)
End date: 22 November 1956, Main Stadium, Melbourne (Australia)
First torchbearer: Dionyssios Papathanassopoulos
Last torchbearer: Ronald William “Ron” Clarke, Olympic participant in athletics (1964, 1968), bronze medallist in Tokyo 1964.
Number of torchbearers: 3,181: 350 in Greece, 2,831 in Australia.
Recruitment of torchbearers: To qualify, the participants had to be able to run 1 mile (1.61 km) in 7.5 minutes. For the Organising Committee, one athlete from each sport had to participate. The relay was not open to women or professional sportsmen.
Distance: ~20,470km in total (air travel included): 4,912km by land, including 354km in Greece
Countries visited: Greece, Turkey, Iraq, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia
Description: The torch was modelled on that of London 1948. The handle ends in a ring, and the upper part, in the shape of a cauldron, presents the Olympic rings three times. It bears the inscription: “XVI Olympiad 1956: Olympia Melbourne”.
Height: 47cm with burner, 40.5cm without
Composition: Metal, aluminium
Fuel: Hexamine in tablet form with additional naphthalene and a special igniting material. The combustion duration is 15 minutes.
Designer / Manufacturer: Ralph Lavers / Waco Ltd.
The organisers had to face numerous unexpected climate challenges and readapt the route, mainly due to flooding in the north of Australia. However, the flame arrived in one piece and on time, thanks in particular to the fact that the relay was run day and night with few stops.
The flame crossed the southern hemisphere for the first time on 6 November 1956, during the flight between Singapore and Jakarta.
After being put on display for various charity events following the Games, the cauldron was thought to be lost until 30 years later when it was discovered in a city council warehouse to the west of Melbourne and then given to the Australian Gallery of Sport.
Another torch was specially made for the Opening Ceremony in Melbourne and carried by the last torchbearer when it entered the Stadium. It is made of aluminium with a grooved handle, an openwork cauldron featuring the Olympic symbol and the inscription: “XVI Olympiad Melbourne 1956". So that the flame would be brighter in the Stadium, magnesium flares were used. It is 42 centimetres high.
With the exception of the Opening Ceremony, in Denmark and Sweden, the relay took place entirely on horseback as a reminder that only the equestrian events were being staged in Stockholm.
The flame was lit in Olympia then relayed to Athens. It then flew to Kastrup airport, near Copenhagen, where a relay was staged to the capital. It then headed for Malmö in Sweden. There it was carried into the city. It continued its journey to Sörentorp and finally to Stockholm.
At the Opening Ceremony, Swedish cavalry captain Hans Wilkne entered the Stadium at a gallop, saluted the King, the IOC members and the Games participants, and lit the cauldron, which burned throughout the Games. The flame was then passed to Karin Lindberg, a gold medallist in gymnastics in Helsinki in 1952, who then passed on part of the flame to Swedish runner and gold medallist in the 1,500 metres at the London 1948 Games, Henry Eriksson. Both ran, torch in hand, around the Stadium forming the shape of a horse shoe, one on each side, to arrive at the two towers and light the summit of each with a flame.
Start date: 2 June 1956, Olympia (Greece)
End date: 10 June 1956, Olympic Stadium, Stockholm (Sweden)
First torchbearer: Takis Constantinidis
Last torchbearer: Hans Wikne, Olympic participant in equestrian sports (1964)
Number of torchbearers: 330 in Greece and ~160 in Denmark and Sweden
Recruitment of torchbearers: In Sweden, the horse riders were chosen through equestrian clubs.
Distance: 325km in Greece (aerial transport and Denmark-Sweden relay excluded)
Countries visited: Greece, Denmark, Sweden
Due to the fact that the equestrian events could not be held in Melbourne because of Australian quarantine regulations, an additional relay took place between Olympia and Stockholm where these events were staged in June 1956. This was the only time that for the same edition of the Summer Games, two Olympic flames were lit in the same year. A similar torch to Melbourne, but shorter, was used for the Stockholm relay.