Saturday, 20 August 2016

Melbourne 1956

The Event

The first Games to be held outside of Europe or the Americas and planning started not without concern. The equine events had to be held in Stockholm due to Australian animal quarantine laws and funding for the building of stadia and facilities was not released by the government. The IOC threatened to move the games to Italy which pushed forward development and when the games actually began they were played in good spirits.

The Athletes

Australia dominated swimming events picking up 14 medals. The USA were the most successful track team led by the ‘San Antonio Bullet’ Bobby Morrow (and shod in adidas) taking Gold in the 100 and 200m. Athletes from East and West Germany competed in a combined team, a decision which was carried forward until 1968 Olympics. The Soviet Union led the medal table with 98 medals [37 gold].

Adidas at the Olympics

At the 1952 Helsinki Games Adi himself had infiltrated the Olympic compound posing as a track coach to get close to the athletes and get them to try his shoes, achieving great success. The process was repeated in Melbourne by Adi’s son Horst. Only 20 years of age, he was selected because of his English language skills and proved to be more than able, forging long lasting bonds with coaches and athletes, some of whom would rise to become powerful figures in sports over the next few decades. The market was still relatively new and athletes were happy to accept the gifts of new sports shoes - especially such excellently crafted ones. As amateurs they were forbidden to receive payment for competing and many had to fund equipment out of their own budgets. Endorsement payments, sponsorship and shoe contracts had yet to come into play. When the games ended adidas could count 25 Gold, 23 Silver and 24 Bronze in their victories.

The Shoes

The ‘Melbourne’ was specially designed for the games and was adidas’ lightest track spike. Adi had been experimenting with kangaroo leather in the build up to the games due to its suppleness, elastic properties and sweat resistance, it was merely a coincidence that the animal which provided the material for the upper was native to Australia! The shoe also featured four granite spikes and improvements to the heel and tongue. An instant hit, the shoe provided many medals and its white upper with green stripes were really eye catching in photos.

The Pik Ass [Ace of Spades] training shoe was introduced in 1951, but was still a popular model in 1956 amongst athletes. Adidas could modify the shoe for different sporting disciplines. The shoes in this picture are from the adidas archive and were used by Harold Vincent Connolly to win Gold in the Discus.

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