Australia has hosted the Olympic Games twice. The Dutch however participated in only one, the Sydney 2000 Olympics, which were the most successful games for the Dutch until the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. In 1956 the Dutch also had very high hopes for a very successful games, however they withdrew from the Melbourne Olympics at the last minute. The reason for the boycott was the brutal repression of the Hungarian uprising by the Soviet Union. 

We have recreated the story made up completely from entries in the DAW. The interest in the games from a Dutch Australian perspective was driven mainly by the DAW. The articles are in the Sports Archives.

In 1956 most Dutch people in Australia had been here for only a few years. Few would have taken out Australian citizenship yet or were even eligible to take it out. The DAW no doubt could see some commercial benefit and increased readership by tapping into the ‘old fatherland feeling’. The DAW did this by starting what they called the ‘Onze eigen deelnemer actie’ (Our own participant action).

The NOC (Dutch Olympic Committee) could fund only a limited number of athletes to the games, so the DAW project aimed to raise funds for at least one extra athlete to take part as the ‘Eigen Deelnemer’ representing the Dutch in Australia. There were regular entries in the paper of amounts raised, with names published and the amount raised so far. There were editorials cajoling the readers to contribute. Letters to the editor, club activities to raise funds, articles about Dutch athletes progress, etc. All this to keep interest going.

There is a particular interesting story about a couple of athletes who came on their own. These athletes fell outside the official team numbers but were allowed to participate by paying their own way. The reaction among the Dutch readership on the withdrawal at the last minute was mixed. There was no reporting in the papers of the games even though the DAW had been media accredited. In the end the moneys raised were distributed by a representative committee according to the wishes of the readership.

There is also a DVD of this in the DACC Library (see: part 5 of this set)

Paulus Breedveld (2021)

Categories: Sport