1948 London Olympic Opening Ceremony

Les McKay, flag bearer

Tonight, we will be watching Opening Ceremony of the 2020/2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics which will be vastly different from ever before. Back in 1948 at the London Olympics, Torquay Surf Life Saving Club member, burley water polo player, Les McKay, was the Australian flagbearer at the opening ceremony.

Les, a World War II veteran, had been a champion surf swimmer before the war. He proudly led the 73 Australian athletes comprising of 66 men and 7 women around the stadium. Absentees from the march past were Marjorie McQuade, Denise Spencer, Nancy Lyons, John Bartram and John Treloar who had races the next day.

The Australians gave an impressive display of marching and earned the plaudits of the large London crowd when there was an impressive salute to the King featuring a majestic sweep of the Australian flag by Les the standard-bearer.

Tickets on the black market

Three Australian female swimmers had used the black market to find tickets so that they could attend the Olympic opening at Webley Stadium. Marjorie McQuade (14 years), Nancy Lyons (18 years) and Denise Spencer (19 years) did not take part in the march-past because the team manager (Edgar Tanner) thought the heat might be too much for them. The teenagers were bitterly disappointed when told they could not attend the ceremony because there were no tickets available. The manageress (Mrs Magee) sent people rushing from gate-to-gate begging for tickets and offering considerable money to get the three girls into the pavilion. After keen bargaining by Dutch, Argentine and Peruvian friends of the Australians, a black marketeer sold three tickets and the girls were able to watch the ceremony.

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