The Olympic rings on a silver satin cloth
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Summer Olympics

Summer Olympics highlights: 1964 to 2016

Stories from Tokyo 1964 to Rio 2016

This collection spotlights some of the most memorable Olympic moments in Australian history through news footage from the NFSA collection.

We look at one or more highlights from each of the preceding games from 2016 back to when Tokyo last played host in 1964.

From Betty Cuthbert to Kieren Perkins, the inaugural Women's Rugby Sevens to the Oarsome Foursome, relive – or discover – thrilling victories featuring just a few of our many Olympic champions of the last five decades.

Celebrate Australia’s rich Olympic history in this diverse and joyful collection of television, radio, recorded sound and photographic coverage of the Summer Olympic Games from 1964 to 2016.

See also our curated collection of Paralympics Highlights from 1994 to 2016.

Rio de Janeiro 2016: Women's Rugby Sevens
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Courtesy:
Seven Network
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As seen in this gem of a clip from the Seven Network, the Australian women made history in the inaugural Rugby Sevens at Rio by claiming the first gold medal ever awarded in the sport.

Having won the 2015–16 world series, the Aussies were the pre-Olympic favourites. They began the pool stages with big wins over Colombia (53–0) and Fiji (36–0), followed by a tight encounter with the USA tied at 12 all. The team proceeded to the knockout round with solid victories over Spain (24–0) in the quarterfinals and Canada (17–5) in the semis, setting up an ultimate showdown with trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand.

In a match format lasting only 20 minutes, the Aussies scored four great tries – with standout performances from Ellia Green, Sharni Williams and Shannon Parry – beating the New Zealanders by a comfortable margin.

As the segment explains, the Women’s Rugby Sevens is a relatively new sport in Australia and what makes this team's achievement particularly special is that many of its members had been recruited from other sports – and some had only learnt to tackle in the prior four years.

The broadcast includes a variety of memorable event moments – highlights from the match, on-field interviews with the athletes, the medal ceremony, and the Australian team celebrating after the game (with responses from family members) – as well as the emotional post-match haka performance from the Kiwi team.

The broadcast also edits in some unexpected moments such as the interview with Hollywood movie star Matthew McConaughey, who admits that he is a big fan of Australian sports. Undoubtedly one of the great Olympics moments, this was a win both for Australia and a win for women’s sport.

Excerpt from Seven News Brisbane, 9 August 2016.

London 2012: Sally Pearson – Athletics
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Courtesy:
Nine Network
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This broadcast news segment covers Sally Pearson’s 100m hurdles gold medal – one of the great wins for Australia in recent Olympic history.

Clocking 12.57 seconds in the Round 1 heat and then setting a staggering 12.39 second time in the semis, Sally led the competition heading into the championship race.

As we can see in the footage, she got off to a perfect start hitting good time at the first hurdle and taking a narrow lead on her great competitor, the American Dawn Harper. The two fought it out across the proceeding nine hurdles, with Harper making a spirited charge at the end.

But in the run of her life – and with Australia’s expectations on her shoulders – Sally kept her nerve and finished strongly. The win, however, didn’t come easy – Sally had to wait for an agonising few moments before the judges confirmed the results. She’d won by 0.02 seconds – with an Olympic record time of 12.35.

The segment is a terrific example of how sports coverage has developed over time. This segment includes a complexity unseen in many other examples throughout the collection –with trackside interviews and up-close imagery capturing Sally at her starting block when the rain begins to fall.

We see zoomed shots of Sally’s family waiting anxiously in the crowd. And then, we are presented with her emotional celebration after the race (emphasised through slow motion). Also featured is Sally’s warm-hearted embrace with competitor Dawn Harper, this too seeming to draw the viewer into the middle of the action.

After the race, Sally is asked what she will do? 'Probably go have a cheeseburger', she replies – a well-deserved reward for a tremendous Olympic win and our first gold on the track since Cathy Freeman in 2000.

In this collection, you can also see Sally's race watched by fellow Australian Anna Meares, who won the gold medal in the track cycling sprint on the same day. Later on that unforgettable evening the two Australian champions spot one another and embrace, in recognition of their shared victories.

Excerpt from NBN News Newcastle, 8 August 2012.

London 2012: Anna Meares – Cycling
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This wonderful segment from the Nine Network's coverage of the London Olympics profiles one of the most thrilling wins in Australian sporting history, Anna Meares' gold medal in the track cycling sprint – where she overcame her arch-rival, Victoria Pendleton from Britain.

Dating back to an incident at the 2006 World Championship in Bordeaux (France), the bitter feud between the two cyclists continued across several Commonwealth Games and Olympic championships. In 2008, Anna had broken her neck in a horrific crash at a cycling event in Los Angeles, but came back amazingly seven months later – wining silver at the Beijing Olympics, finishing just behind Pendleton.

The tension between the two had increased even further by London 2012 – and at this event Anna had to contend with the overwhelming home crowd support for their golden girl (dubbed by the British media, 'Queen Victoria').

Anna, however, had prepared well – spending the intervening three years training in a tailored strategy her team called ‘Know Thy Enemy'. This involved Anna racing against the male sprinter Alex Bird, who would mimic Pendleton's cycling style and technique.

In the final – a best-of-three sprint – Pendleton edged out Anna in a nail-biting first race but the referees then intervened, determining – somewhat controversially – that Pendleton had illegally moved off her line. The British media reported that this disqualification in the first race was the result of Anna's overly aggressive riding.

Heading into race two, Anna was one game up with a significant advantage. She held her nerve and won comfortably, killing off any hope for a final showdown. After years of tension, the two riders finally embraced, hands clenched in the air as a sign of mutual respect.

In Rio, Anna was the flag bearer and the Australian Olympic team captain. She is also the only Australian in history to win medals at four consecutive Olympic games.

The news footage captures the hallmarks that define Anna as a champion – passion, focus, dedication and hard work. Lovely additions include Anna hugging her coach (Gary West) and husband (Mark Chadwick) while walking a lap of the velodrome - she also spots the Australian swim team, who share in her victory.

Shots of the crowd, including onlookers such as fellow Olympian Stephanie Rice and American basketball superstar Kobe Bryant, help to convey the event's excitement and tension.

At the end of the segment, we see Anna – on the same day – watching a television live broadcast of Australian Olympian Sally Pearson's famous 100m hurdle gold medal run. And later on that unforgettable evening the two Australian champions spot one another at Stratford International railway station, where they embrace, lovingly.

Excerpt from NBN News Newcastle, 8 August 2012.

Beijing 2008: Matthew Mitcham – Diving
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Courtesy:
JOY 94.9
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This episode of the podcast Word for Word from 6 December 2012 focuses on Matt Mitcham – the Australian Olympian who won the 10m platform diving in Beijing 2008, having received the highest single-dive score in Olympic history.

The 20-year-old diver stunned local spectators – and international audiences – by scoring 112 in his final routine, clinching gold from Chinese rival Zhou Lüxin.

Matt’s story is remarkable – battling with depression and retiring in his teenage years after burnout, he returned to the sport, training hard to claim the apex of diving, the Olympic gold.

Matt is also believed to be the first Australian to openly declare his sexuality before competing at an Olympic Games – and has since become an icon of the LGBTQI+ community, paving the way for other athletes.

Providing an LGBTQI+ perspective, Word for Word is a podcast that interviews many sportspeople, performers, religious and political authorities and academics. Presented by Dean Beck, this snippet provides a fascinating portrait of Matt's life experiences, skilfully interweaving a range of content about Matt, including commentary, news clips, interviews and speeches – such as Matt's acceptance speech at the Sportsperson of the Year Awards in 2008.

Image: Matthew Mitcham by Philip Myers is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Athens 2004: Pursuit Cycling team
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Southern Cross Austereo
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This news segment from Tasmania features the men's 4000m team pursuit gold medal in track cycling.

The Australian quartet had scorched the velodrome track qualifying in a blistering world-record time (3:56.610), setting up a nail-biting playoff with rivals Great Britain.

In the final round, the Australian team – consisting of Graeme Brown, Brett Lancaster, Luke Roberts and Bradley McGee – performed brilliantly, edging out their opponents by a few seconds and winning the first gold medal for Australia in the event since 1984.

Sadly, however, other members of the Australian pursuit squad – Peter Dawson and Steve Wooldridge (who had taken part in prior rounds) – were deemed ineligible to receive a medal, as they were not part of the final round competition.

It's hard not to become caught up in this well-conceived news segment, which effectively captures the cyclists' overwhelming sense of achievement, relief and love of country after winning gold.

The clip also includes the rather amusing situation following the race – where the team was forced to ride back to the athletes' village after their bus had left without them!

Excerpt from Nightly News 7 Tasmania, 24 August 2004.

Athens 2004: Chantelle Newbery – Diving
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Courtesy:
Southern Cross Austereo
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Chantelle Newbery’s gold medal win in the 10m platform diving event was a standout moment for Australians at the Athens Olympics.

Spending 9 years of hard work preparing for the event, her efforts paid off in the final with an almost faultlessly executed dive – a backwards two-and-a-half somersault.

Beating the favourite, China’s Lao Lishi, Chantelle became the first Australian diving gold medallist in 80 years, and the nation’s first female Olympic diving champion ever. Fellow Australian Loudy Tourky won bronze in the event.

The tightly edited segment which combines shots of the dives, the medal ceremony, Chantelle’s Chinese coaching team and personal interviews, captures the historic moment and the electric energy within the stadium. 

A lovely addition to this story is seeing the reaction of Chantelle’s two-year-old son watching the win on television back at home in Australia.

Excerpt from Nightly News 7 Tasmania, 23 August 2004.

Sydney 2000: Cathy Freeman – Athletics
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The sight of Cathy Freeman storming to victory in the women's 400 metre final in her green and silver bodysuit is one of the greatest moments in Australian sporting history. 

This clip powerfully captures one of Australia's most memorable sporting moments. The multi-camera coverage of the race itself is an exceptional example of live vision switching.

The inclusion of interviews with Freeman just after the race and later, provide a useful context as to what the win meant for her.

It would have been interesting to hear more from bronze medallist Katherine Merry who seems to appreciate the significance of the race for Freeman, who was the first Australian Aboriginal competitor to win an individual Olympic gold medal.

Excerpt from Seven News, 26 September 2000.

Notes by Adam Blackshaw

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Sydney 2000: Equestrian team
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Courtesy:
Seven Network
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Australia has a strong competitive record in performing well in equestrian events, where success depends on the skill of both rider and horse – and the intimate and profound relationship between the two.

And we’ve done particularly well in certain equestrian sports such as the three day eventing – a marathon consisting of dressage, cross country and show jumping set over three days, and requiring peak performance from rider and horse in each phase.

As seen in this clip from Seven Network news, the Australian three-day eventing team took out gold in Sydney. It was their third gold medal in successive Olympics, a first in this sport’s history – and an Olympic record for Andrew Hoy matched only, at that time, by Dawn Fraser.

Featuring Hoy, Matt Ryan, Phillip Dutton and Stuart Tinney, the team had performed brilliantly on the first two days in dressage and cross country. By the third day – the show jumping – they were the only country to have all four horses still in the race and, as mentioned in the segment, could afford one bad ride (as only the best three best horses counted).

Despite a time penalty, Dutton and Tinney rode well and put Hoy in good stead for the final run. Hoy performed magnificently to win gold much to the delight of the 20,000-plus spectators – many of whom had supported Hoy throughout the event by chanting 'Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Hoy, Hoy, Hoy'.

The coverage includes key moments from the final day, editing together footage of the rider’s family, Hoy’s fiancée looking on nervously from the crowd and the team on the podium accepting their medals (including an amusing moment where Hoy kisses the team coach).  

Hoy, the three-time gold medallist, will stretch his own record of the most Olympic appearances by an Australian athlete to 8 when he competes at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in August 2021. At 62, he will also become the oldest male Olympic competitor ever from Australia.

Excerpt from 7 News Perth, 19 September 2000.

Atlanta 1996: Kieren Perkins – Swimming
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Courtesy:
Seven Network
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As conveyed in this clip from Seven Nightly News, several factors added to the significance of Kieren Perkins’ gold medal win in the 1500m freestyle in Atlanta, 1996.

Coming into the games with a serious diaphragm problem, Kieren was the slowest qualifier in the final and was relegated to lane 8 – which at that time was seen as a disadvantage for swimmers, because of the waves generated by the inside lanes and for the difficulty of seeing other competitors.

Adding to the pressure, Perkins had won gold in the same event four years earlier in Barcelona – and was thus defending his title.

Perkins began the race superbly, achieving a stroke and rhythm that had been absent from his lead-up training. Churning through the water, he led the entire race – finishing many body lengths ahead of the rest of the pack, and in just under 15 minutes. Fellow Aussie Daniel Kowalski got the silver.

This segment provides a brilliant overview of Kieren before, during and after the famous event. The tightly constructed editing, interspersed with reactions from Kieren, his parents (at their home in Brisbane) and other competitors such as Kowalski, gives a complete picture of the moment in time.

The beginning of the segment also mentions the great Susie O’Neil, who on the same day won Olympic gold in the 200m Butterfly event, defeating Ireland triple winner Michelle Smith (who was later found guilty of drug offences).

Excerpt from Seven Nightly News Sydney, 27 July 1996.

Barcelona 1992: Oarsome Foursome – Rowing
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Network Ten
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Featuring news veterans Tim Webster, Katrina Lee and Mike Gibson, this TEN Eyewitness News coverage centres on the famous Oarsome Foursome win in the Men’s Coxless Four at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

As noted in the commentary by reporter Owen Martin, the team – consisting of James Tomkins, Nick Green, Mike McKay and Andrew Cooper – overtook their American rivals in the first half of the race. They then staved off a spirited challenge from Slovenia to win gold.

The achievement was particularly special for the quartet after their poor performances in the lead-up regattas. Struggling to hold off the likes of America, the Netherlands and Slovenia, the Oarsome Foursome needed to make some changes if they were to compete for a medal at Barcelona.

In addition to a month-long intensive training camp, the team decided on a seat swap between Cooper and Green, and the implementation of short, cleaver-like blades to their rowing boat. These tactics proved successful, the team bouncing back to win the ultimate prize in Barcelona.

The inclusion of footage from the race itself, edited with the post-race interview with lead rower James Tomkins (while still on the boat), helps to capture the intensity and magnitude of the moment.

The overwhelming achievement enjoyed by the team is further emphasised in the last few shots – where the four Olympians sing lines of the national anthem, followed by cheers and celebrations.

Following their successes in Barcelona, the Oarsome Foursome became a household name. The crew also appeared in playful, amusing and now iconic Goulburn Valley canned fruit commercials.

Excerpt from TEN Eyewitness News Sydney, 3 August 1992.

Seoul 1988: Laurie Lawrence – Swimming Coach
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Courtesy:
Network Ten
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Larry Emdur's report for Network Ten focuses on the euphoria displayed by coach Laurie Lawrence following the win of his star pupil, Duncan Armstrong at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

Ranked 46th in the world in the 200m freestyle, Duncan was not considered in medal discussions for the Seoul Olympics. However, in the last 25 metres he surged past American world-record holder Matt Biondi to claim the gold medal, setting a new world-record time of 1 minute 47.25 seconds.

Duncan’s stunning triumph set off one of the great coaching celebrations the sport has seen. Laurie became a household name with behaviour so uninhibited that some at the time thought it unacceptable.

Laurie slaps the reporter with joy, kisses random spectators, riles up the crowd and narrowly avoids arrest for being rowdy. Later, he jumps fully clothed into a training pool. Emerging from the pool dripping wet with squelching Reebok shoes, Laurie realises he is missing out on Duncan’s medal ceremony.

He frantically searches the complex, spotting his star pupil on the podium, receiving the gold medal.

The Network Ten segment portrays Laurie in an endearing light. The music – which includes Whitney's Houston's ballad 'All at Once' (1985) and Angry Anderson's 'Suddenly' (1986) – help convey the deep-seated emotion and pride Laurie feels regarding the win. The use of slow motion and long cross fades conveys a similar sentiment.

In the final sequence we see Laurie holding his hat to his heart. This shot is superimposed over an image of the Australian flag, with the anthem sounding in the background. Through the careful editing of sound, image and voice this fascinating piece of news journalism explicitly conveys Laurie’s patriotism and love for Australia.

Excerpt from TEN Eyewitness News Sydney, 20 September 1988.

Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988: It Seems Like Yesterday
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Network Ten
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This stirring clip is an excerpt from It Seems Like Yesterday, a Ten Eyewitness News special reviewing the big news events of the 1980s.

It begins with imagery from the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles and 1988 Seoul Olympics, including the passing of the flame and the lighting of the Olympic cauldron (in Seoul) and the Australians marching in the parade of flags (Los Angeles). 

This sequence is followed by a montage featuring many of the most famous  Australian performances at the two Olympic events.  

The coverage profiles Duncan Armstrong's 200m freestyle gold medal performance and cleverly interweaves the iconic, uninhibited reaction from coach Laurie Lawrence. Other memorable moments featured in the segment include:

•    The Hockeyroos (women's hockey) gold medal win in Seoul
•    Debbie Flintoff-King's nailbiting 400m hurdle final in Seoul
•    Dean Lukin's winning lift in weightlifting in Los Angeles
•    Jon Sieben's unexpected gold medal in the 200m butterfly in Los Angeles
•    Gary Honey's brilliant silver medal in long jump in Los Angeles
•    Glynis Nunn's gold medal in heptathlon in Los Angeles.

The uplifting 1980s synth music, combined with segments of audio commentary (at times with added reverberation filtering) and the crossfading of the imagery, delivers a stylishly executed TV production. It effectively conveys a sense of excitement and also nostalgia for the time it portrays.

Los Angeles 1984: Jon Sieben – Swimming
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Network Ten
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As head swimming coach Terry Buck says in this clip from TEN Eyewitness News, Jon Sieben's win in the 200m butterfly event at Los Angeles was one of Australia's most outstanding Olympic achievements in swimming.

In the major upset of the 1984 Games, Sieben surprised everyone by beating Michael Gross of Germany in a blistering world record time of 1:57.04.

The footage interweaves shots of Sieben and his training partner, Angela Russell, in full Olympic attire arriving at Sydney Airport. Sieben is welcomed home by fans and his overjoyed parents, with cheers and music filling the terminal.

Whisked away to the Camperdown Travel Lodge, Sieben celebrates with a champagne breakfast with NSW sports minister Michael Cleary and other Olympians such as Suzie Landells in attendance.

The latter part of the clip features a lovely personal interview with the humble and almost self-effacing Sieben, who fondly recollects the unexpected win. He describes the moment straight after the event when he spoke to his proud parents – and the great sense of honour he felt, receiving his medal on the podium and hearing the Australian anthem.  

The inclusion of footage from the race itself – edited with the more intimate interviews with Sieben, his family, coach and others – makes for a professional and engaging media segment. 

The footage also provides an entertaining time capsule – featuring the distinctive hairstyles, fashion, decor and speech of the 1980s.

Excerpt from TEN Eyewitness News Sydney, 15 August 1984.

Moscow 1980: Michelle Ford – Swimming
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Courtesy:
Seven Network
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Several factors add to the occasion of Michelle Ford's impressive gold medal win in the 800m freestyle at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

As with many other athletes, Michelle was put under immense pressure to boycott the Olympics, because of the Australian Government's stance against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

Other countries, such as the US, had boycotted the games altogether. More than half of the Australian team did not attend, instead opting for financial incentives put forth by the Australian Government.

In the final, Michelle swam against the all-conquering – and immensely intimidating – East Germans (who were later disbarred for the use of systemic doping). As explained in this segment from the Seven Network, Michelle dictated the terms and tactics of the race.

She began at a modest pace, placing second last at the first 100m. By the 150m mark – and to the surprise of her competitors – she began to increase her rate. At 200m, she'd hit second, and by 250 metres, she had powered through to the front.

Michelle extended her lead to several body lengths, still reserving energy for the last laps.

We can see a noticeable difference in production values in this clip compared with other clips in the collection that profile earlier Olympic events. Rather than a single caller, the race features two commentators – who at times converse with each other.

We can also see a greater variety of images and camera angles – for instance, the submerged camera position that captures the swimmers from below as they turn at the end of the lap. We can see another angle at a front-on (rather than side) position, which zooms out as the swimmers progress the length of the pool. 

Rather than simply filming the scoreboard, the swimmers' names and their lap times are superimposed in text over the imagery.

This Seven Network segment brilliantly captures the momentous occasion in Australian Olympic history, but it also serves as a demonstrative example of filming technology of the time.

Also from the 1980 Olympics: listen to the final moments of Norman May's classic commentary of the 4 × 100 men’s swimming medley which contains his legendary cry of ‘Gold, gold to Australia, gold!’.

Montreal 1976: No Gold for Australia
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From a medal perspective – and as suggested in this excerpt from the Seven Network's World of Sport: Sport '76 wrap-up – Montreal was perhaps the lowest point in Australia's Olympic history.

The team of 184 athletes returned from the event without a single gold medal – and with the lowest medal tally at an Olympic Games since Berlin in 1936.

Given how closely Australian national identity is linked to our sporting success, the poor result catalysed a restructuring of Australian sports, including many administrative steps to improve elite and state-based sports programs across the country.

Perhaps the most significant of these initiatives was establishing the Australian Institute of Sport, now one of world’s leading training facilities.

Despite its emphasis on lack of medals, this World of Sport clip also shows the athletes to be a diverse and robust group. The Australians competed in most of the events – and with proper support, many would soon prove their ability at the highest levels.

The clip includes coverage of the men's hockey team campaign. The team entered the finals as favourites but just lost out to New Zealand 1–0.

We also see shots of one of the great Australian hopes, Stephen 'Super Fish' Holland winning bronze in the 1500m freestyle.

Sailors Ian Brown and Ian Ruff won bronze in yachting's 470 class, with John Bertrand third in the Finn class. Bertrand later skippered the racing yacht Australia II in Australia's successful 1983 America's Cup campaign.

The great runner Raelene Boyle finished fourth in the 100m sprint but was sadly disqualified in the 200m sprint for making two false starts.

Finally, in Equestrian, the three-day eventing team – consisting of Bill Roycroft (a five-time Olympian and the oldest competitor at Montreal), his son Wayne, Denis Pigott and Merv Bennett – won bronze.

Montreal was the first colour broadcast of an Olympics on Australian television sets, following the switch to colour broadcasting on 1 March 1975. 

The segment’s carefully worded commentary speaks directly to the images on screen, at times allowing the images – and snippets of the original audio commentary – to play out.

In addition to its wonderful synopsis of the Olympic Games that year, the production also helps to showcase the advancements in film technology and the style of sports broadcasting of mid-1970s Australia.

Munich 1972: Shane Gould – Swimming
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This delightful sound recording centres on 15 year-old Shane Gould’s famous 200m medley win at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

Despite retiring only a few years later, Shane is undoubtedly one of our greatest Olympians. She won three gold medals at Munich – setting a new record in each event.

She is also the only person, male or female, to hold simultaneously every world freestyle record from 100m to 1500m, and also the 200m individual medley world record.

By the time Shane arrived at Munich her reputation had gained such stature that US swimmers took to wearing T-shirts proclaiming 'All that glitters is not Gould' – but she stood up to  the challenge.

This excerpt from Great Moments in Australian Sport (1985) features the wonderfully expressive tones of commentator Norman May, introducing the context surrounding Gould and then cutting to an audio segment featuring the original commentary on the race.

The calling of the race itself displays real virtuosity and sounds uniquely Australian. The caller’s ability to communicate the excitement and paint a picture for the listeners is remarkable.

With no time to breathe normally or speak steadily, his spontaneous delivery crescendos just at the right time – still audible over the crowd noise – to bring the call to a gripping finish.

In an Olympics which will always be remembered – and marred – by the horrific Munich massacre (where 11 Israeli athletes, one West German police officer and five Palestinian terrorists were slain), we must not forget the brilliant achievements of our athletes – who worked so hard and brought pride and joy to people around the world.

Munich 1972: Beverley Whitfield – Swimming
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Beverley Whitfield gained international recognition when she won three gold medals at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. As we hear in this clip, she then added an Olympic gold at the Munich Games in 1972 by winning the women's 200m breaststroke in world-record time.

Competing on the same night as Australian hopefuls Shane Gould and Michael Wenden (both of whom were expected to win gold in their events), Whitfield placed sixth in the qualifying rounds and seemed unlikely to deliver an upset in her own event.

Off the block, Beverley started slowly, placing last after the first lap. But she made up ground in the following few laps – and, under the instruction of coach Don Talbot, shifted gears in the third lap.

In the last lap, she claimed the lead overtaking the great Soviet swimmer Galina Prozumenshchikova on the turn. In the final 50 metres she surpassed Dana Schoenfield (from the USA) and Hungary's Ágnes Kaczander for a golden win.

This excerpt from the sound recording Great Moments in Australian Sport (1985), with a brief link by commentator Norman May, captures Beverley's win wonderfully. Spectators cheer from the stands – and their voices become louder and more intense in the penultimate seconds of the race.

The race caller’s voice also rises in tempo and pitch – but struggles to compete with the roar of the crowd, and is eventually overpowered. All this provides a brilliant historical record of the euphoria surrounding the race.

In an Olympics which will always be remembered – and marred – by the horrific Munich massacre (where 11 Israeli athletes, one West German police officer and five Palestinian terrorists were slain), we must not forget the brilliant achievements of our athletes – who worked so hard and brought pride and joy to people around the world.

Mexico 1968: Michael Wenden – Swimming
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Michael Wenden’s nailbiting win at the 200m freestyle final at Mexico City in 1968 rates among the finest Australian performances at an Olympics.

His rival, the five-time gold medal winner Don Schollander, had not been beaten in 5 years and was the clear favourite for the race.

The footage captures the contrasting swimming styles of the two great swimmers – Schollander, a consummate technician with an efficient stroke rate and flowing technique, against the all-out explosiveness of Wenden, who produced 15 or more strokes per lap than the other competitors.

Wenden later described his style at the 1968 Olympics as 'going hell for leather, getting from one end of the pool to the other as fast and furiously as possible'.

One shortfall of such an approach is the risk of beginning well but then running out of steam in the final lap. In this race however, Wenden powered through, setting a new world record of 155.2 seconds.  

Wenden’s achievements at Mexico City are all the more significant considering he suffered from the high altitude setting – spending two weeks acclimatising with an increased heart rate, breathlessness and insomnia.

The commentary track – including the commentator’s slightly patrician Australian accent – is typical of the time. His commentary begins in a measured and controlled manner and increases in pace and intensity as the race progresses to a gripping finish.

The camerawork includes long shots and mid shots, punctuated with pans and zooms, all of which makes for effective coverage of a brilliant race. Rather than superimposing the results over the screen – as is typical of contemporary news productions – the camera simply focuses on the scoreboard.

The final part of the clip includes the wonderful moment where a delighted Wenden accepts the medal and waves to the crowd.

Upper body shot of the three athletes on winners podium. Peter Norman with Tommie Smith and John Carlos on right with gloved fists raised in a salute
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Mexico 1968: Peter Norman – Athletics and Black Power Salute
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Australian sprinter Peter Norman standing on the podium with fellow athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith has become one of the most iconic – and political – sporting photographs of the 20th century.

In the famous 200m final, Norman stunned everyone by powering past Carlos to claim Silver (Smith won Gold) with a personal best time of 20.06 seconds, an oceanic record that still stands today.

However, the enormity of the occasion came after the race where Norman – a white Australian kid from Melbourne – stood in solidarity with Carlos and Smith, both of whom gave the Black Power salute. The salute was an act of defiance that highlighted systemic segregation and racism back in the US.

As we can see in the photo taken by American photographer John Dominis, and featured in the documentary Salute (Matt Norman, Australia-USA, 2008), Smith stands in the middle – head bowed and black-gloved fist thrust into the air. He also stands without running shoes, a gesture symbolising the comparative poverty suffered by African Americans of that time.

Behind him, Carlos joins with his own Black Power salute. And Norman, who looks ahead, wears the badge of the Olympic Project for Human Rights. All this occurred while the American anthem, 'The Star-Spangled Banner’, played in the background.

In the documentary Salute, Smith and Carlos recall how they had approached Norman after the race. They asked him if he believed in human rights and if he believed in God. Norman, who came from a Salvation Army background, answered 'yes' to both questions and joined the protest.

Norman even suggested that Smith and Carlos share their gloves. Carlos recollects that he expected to see fear in Norman's eyes, but he didn't – he only saw love.

The Black Power salute was an act that scandalised the Olympics. Smith and Carlos returned to the US as controversial figures, but also heroes of the civil rights movement.

Norman returned home to Australia as a pariah, suffering unofficial sanction and was ridiculed as the forgotten man of the Black Power salute. He was not selected for the 1972 Olympics and never ran in an Olympics again.

Norman sadly passed away at the age of 62 in 2006 following a heart attack. History will show him as a brilliant runner – as well as a political activist who had the courage of his convictions.

Smith and Carlos gave eulogies and were pallbearers at Norman’s funeral, 38 years after the three had made history.

In October 2019, Athletics Australia in partnership with the Victorian Government, unveiled a statue of Peter Norman in Albert Park outside Lakeside Stadium in Melbourne, Norman's hometown.

Tokyo 1964: Betty Cuthbert – Athletics
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NFSA ID
449944
Courtesy:
Seven Network
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Year

It's challenging to find the right superlatives for Betty Cuthbert’s Olympic record.

Competing as a relatively unknown, 18-year-old athlete at the 1956 games, she won every sprint gold medal available to women – and she remains the only athlete in history to win Olympic gold in the 100m, 200m and 400m events.

Firmly etched into the national psyche by the time of the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, the 'Golden Girl' (as she was affectionately dubbed) achieved perhaps her sweetest victory of all, as seen in this brilliant capturing of her flawless race at the inaugural 400m women's sprint.

Cuthbert had been injured leading up to the games, initially hiding her injury from selectors, but was then allowed to compete on the provisio that she'd submit to rehabilitation treatment and wear a toe support.

In the footage, we catch snippets of Betty's trademark running style – her high knee lift and open mouth. Betty hits her stride in the final stretch of the race, coming from behind to win by a small margin.

This fabulous black-and-white film reel of ATN7 news file footage captures one of the greatest moments in Australian athletics. Typical of Olympic coverage of the time, the clip includes long takes and switches between wide shots and mid shots. At times the camera moves about tracking one or more runners.

The commentary and style of speech play out almost like horseracing commentary, but what comes through in the caller's words is a great sense of pride, affection and ownership. The emphasis on 'Our' in 'Our Betty is doing fine' helps convey such qualities.

Tokyo 1964: Dawn Fraser – Swimming
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
118444
Courtesy:
Cinesound Movietone Productions
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Year

One of Australia's most decorated Olympic athletes, Dawn Fraser was the first woman to break the minute for 100m and the only woman to capture the 100m freestyle in three successful Olympics: Melbourne (1956), Rome (1960) and Tokyo (1964).

The clip features Dawn's famous 100m final in Tokyo in 1964. Pressed by the American teenage sensations Sharon Stouder and Kathy Ellis, who were expected to win all freestyle events, Dawn meets the challenge by setting a new Olympic figure of 59.9 seconds.

Her performance in Tokyo was also remarkable considering the circumstances leading up to the event. Dawn was involved in a car crash which resulted in the tragic death of her mother. Dawn suffered injuries resulting in her neck and back being encased in a steel brace for weeks and was racked with depression after the accident.

Dawn's ability to overcome these physical and mental barriers – and then win gold – shows toughness and determination perhaps unparalleled in Australia's Olympic history. These events were later dramatised in the Australian feature film biopic Dawn! (Kan Hannam, Australia, 1979).

The later part of the clip features Dawn at the Prince Alfred Park pool, where she took up a coaching appointment. As stated in the clip, Dawn’s younger students take the opportunity to study her faultless technique while she swims her daily mile.

One of the delights of this newsreel segment is how it successfully edits together snippets of Dawn’s swimming career with her current occupation as a swimming instructor (including her ambitions to coach an Olympic champion).

Playing out as a kind of ‘then’ and ‘now’ of Dawn’s life, the clip’s controlled but dramatic voice-over is typical of newsreels and advertisements of the time.

Excerpt from Australian Movie Magazine No. 7048, 26 November 1970.