Friday, July 13, 2012

1956 Stockholm Equestrian Games Opening Ceremony

The Equestrian Games of the XVI Olympiad
Stockholm, Sweden
Opening Ceremony of the 1956 Equestrian Games in Stockholm

Olympic Ceremony Records
italics indicate records at the time

  • First Games to Feature One Sport (Equestrian - due to animal quarantine in Australia, Summer Games host)
  • First Opening Ceremony to Feature the Parade of Nations on Horseback
  • First Athlete's Oath Taken on Horseback
  • First Olympic Cauldron Lit on Horseback
  • First Ceremony to Light Three Olympic Cauldrons at the Olympic Stadium
  • First Official Dance Display at an Opening Ceremony (the mass play of the 1936 Olympics occurred immediately following the opening ceremony, however this was part of the official program, breaking IOC ceremonial protocol)
Olympic Torch Relay Records
italics indicate records at the time
  • First Olympic Cauldron Lit on Horseback
  • First Ceremony to Light Three Olympic Cauldrons at the Olympic Stadium

Opening Ceremony
Stockholms Olympiastadion (21,000)
June 10, 1956

Opening Ceremony Highlights
Despite being one of the smallest opening ceremonies in terms of attendance (21,000), the Equestrian Games Ceremonies of 1956 were pivotal in the evolution of the modern Olympic Ceremony.  Stockholm was awarded host of the equestrian events in 1956 because Australia (host of the Summer Olympics) had an animal quarantine and the events involving horses could not be staged in Australia.  So, an entire Olympic Games was held in Stockholm, with its own medals, torch relay, and ceremonies for the equestrian events.  The Opening Ceremonies were important to the artistic evolution of the games because it staged the first mass artistic displays (Swedish folk dancing) since Berlin 1936.  Just as the Stockholm games of 1912, these were very grand and elaborate - something that the summer games were lacking since Hitler's egoistic explosion in 1936.  It was very unique in that the parade of nations was entirely on horseback and the cauldron was lit on horseback.  Most importantly, the Official Report above details in the Swedish portion that the cauldrons on the stadiums towers were indeed lit during the 1912 Olympics.  This would seem to certify that the first Olympic Flame occurred in 1912, not in 1928 as the International Olympic Committee determined.  You read it here first! Here is the order of ceremony:
  • King and Queen of Sweden arrive with the Queen of England to the stadium in carriage procession
  • Cheers for "God Save the King" chanted
  • Choir and crowd sing King "Kungssången"
  • Royal Bands, one band on horseback, perform marches
  • The Olympic Flag arrives through the Marathon Gates of the stadium - carried by 6 riders on horseback
  • Parade of Nations on horseback (several racehorses get very startled, an American is thrown off his horse, both were ok)
  • King of Sweden declares the games open
  • Fanfare "Kungarop" from Marcia Carolus Rex blasted from the stadium towers as was done in 1912, and Olympic Hymn by Spisak performed by the choir, 21 gun salute, and 1,000 pigeons released
  • Olympic Flame enters the stadium and the first cauldron is lit on horseback by Hans Wikne (captain of the Swedish Cavalry) then Karin Lindberg (1952 Gold Medal winner in Gymnastics) and Henry Erikkson (1948 Gold Medal winner in the 1500 meter race) light the beacons at the top of the two stadium towers.
  • Bells toll
  • Prayer
  • Beethoven's 9th Symphony, Fourth Mvt. performed by band and choir
  • Fanfare
  • Olympic Oath
  • Swedish National Anthem sung
  • 400 dancers perform Swedish folk dances, forming a giant human version of the Olympic rings

Gold Medal from the 1956 Equestrian Games in Stockholm
Olympic Torch from the 1956 Equestrian Games in Stockholm 

Official Poster of the 1956 Equestrian Games in Stockholm
The 1956 Olympic Cauldron at the Equestrian Games of Stockholm 

Swedish Folk Dancing at the 1956 Equestrian Games in Stockholm


  1. Three cauldrons were NOT lit at these Games. Per footnote 58 of my book, SECRETS OF THE OLYMPIC CEREMONIES, page 96 of the paperback edition...

    "Like Paavo Nurmi in Helsinki, Capt. Winke then handed the torch to Karin Lindberg (gold medal gymnast in 1952) and Henry Ericksson (1500m gold medalist in London 1948) who ran down the track, up the two towers of the stadium and were supposed to light the two beacons up there, again…á la Helsinki.

    However, per the eyewitness testimony of Wolf Lyberg, former Swedish IOC member and Olympic historian, the beacons were never lit on that 1956 Opening day…unlike what was stated in the 1956 Official Report. Once atop the towers, Lindberg and Ericksson merely waved their respective torches. In a letter to the author (me), Lyberg recalled that the ‘torches’ atop the towers were lit off and on during the week-long competition. However, recent evidence shows that the two beacons were lit at the Closing ceremony of 1912…and that may have inspired the first cauldron at Amsterdam 1928."

    So your claim that the 1956 Stockholm Equestrian Olympics are the first to light THREE CAULDRONS is blatantly untrue.

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