Private Papers of John Ian Wing


This site contains all my correspondence I have had with the IOC, Olympic Organizing Committees and Olympic officials.  The site is only available to those who have access to my link.

This is a brief description on how I became involved with the Olympic Movement back in 1956, and why my letters are so important to the Movement. 

When I first started school at Swinburne Junior Technical School in Hawthorn Melbourne, in January 1951, our PE teacher Mr Fletcher asked all the boys in my class, what sport we would like to do on Sports Day.   I couldn’t decide so I went to the library and took out a book on the Olympic Games.  Now I could study all the different sports to see which one I would like to do.  I chose running.

Reading through the book, I was awe struck by the sheer spectacle of the Opening Ceremony.  All the athletes with their head held high entered the Stadium, dressed smartly in their uniforms or national costume and marching behind their own national flag.

During the next two weeks, these same athletes would now compete against each other.  On the final day during the Closing Ceremony, I expected all the athletes to come together in friendship for a final farewell and also all the Medal winners would be given a special ovation from all the athletes and the spectators in the Stadium.

Since the beginning of the Ancient Olympics in 776 BC, athlete have never come together or even marched in the Closing Ceremony.

For the next few months, I tried to come up with an idea how to improve the Closing Ceremony and make it more spectacular than the Opening Ceremony.  After several months, I had to drop this idea because it was affecting my school work. 

Four years later, the Olympic Games came to my home town of Melbourne.  The Olympics suffered its first boycott when a number of countries pulled out of the Games.  Some countries were segregated from the Village. Some foreign governments had highjacked the Games and were using their own athletes as a pawn in their game.  Towards the end of the Games, fighting broke out during a Water Polo match.  It was the fighting that prompted me to write a letter to the Organizing Committee.

The president of the IOC Avery Brundage agreed to my request and changed the rules of the Games.  It was the first International Peace March ever to be held and it was the first time athletes had been allowed to take part in the Closing Ceremony.  However, after the Games, the President was reprimanded by the Executive Committee for failing to comply with the rules of the Olympic Charter.  At the Olympic Congress in 1920, a new law was inserted into the Charter to prevent any one person from altering or stopping an Olympic ceremony, whether it be the Medal ceremony or the Opening or Closing ceremony.  To make any changes to a ceremony would require a lengthy process that could take many months if not years to get approval. 

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In the original 1956 Games Report, there were no mention of any major changes to the Closing Ceremony, except it said, “it had been suggested the athletes should march in unity”.  Many years later, the Report was updated which gave more details about the changes to the Closing Ceremony.  The Executive Committee were very upset because their own president had failed to consult them and had broken the rules of the Olympic Charter.  They also decided that no record would be kept in the Olympic Archives about the changes which occurred during the Closing Ceremony of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games.  At the 1960 Rome Games, the athletes were not allowed to take part in the Closing Ceremony.  However, with much pressure from various sporting bodies, the Executive Committee agreed to allow the athletes to march in all future closing ceremonies.  But no record would be kept of these meetings or of any changes that had been made.

I had remained anonymous all this time and the only person who knew my identity was the chairman of the Organising Committee Wilfrid Kent Hughes.  Thirty years after the Melbourne Games, a student Shane Cahill found my second letter to Kent Hughes which revealed my name.  The IOC was informed but they refused to acknowledge this new information.

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In 1992, I wrote to President Samaranch to inform him that I had written the letter back in 1956, which had changed the format of the Closing Ceremony.  The President invited me to meet him at the Olympic Headquarters in Lausanne.  At our meeting, he told me what a wonderful idea I had suggested which was in the true Olympic spirit, and in the same breadth he said, “But I am stopping the athletes from marching in all future Closing Ceremonies”.   As he was the President, there was not much I could say, but to accept his word.  At the 1992 Barcelona Games, the athletes were seated throughout the Closing Ceremony. 

After the fatal bombing at the 1996 Atlanta Games, I immediately wrote to Billy Payne the President of the Organizing Committee and asked him to speak to President Samaranch, and get him to change his mind and allow the athletes to march as one nation during the Closing Ceremony as a show of global unity.  President Samaranch changed his mind and allowed the athletes to take part in the Closing Ceremony.  Billy Payne wrote to me after the Games to thank me.

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In 1996, Ric Birch the Director for Ceremonies wrote to inform me that President Samaranch had given him instructions that all athletes will be seated throughout the Closing Ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Games.  Ric wanted my original idea to be incorporated into the Sydney Closing Ceremony and he asked me to come up with an idea to convince President Samaranch to change his mind.  I wrote a long letter to Ric setting out a new plan.  By now I am living in Romania and I don’t hear from Ric.  I learnt later that he had been replaced by his assistant David Atkins.

In December 1999, I am in Sydney to have a meeting with David Atkins and then straight after with the Chief Executive for SOCOG Sandy Hollway.  David informs me that the athletes will be seated throughout the Closing Ceremony on the instructions from President Samaranch.  At my meeting with Sandy, he invited me to be the guest of honour of SOCOG at the closing ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.  As I had never been to an Olympic Games, Sandy wanted me to see the Closing Ceremony that I had created way back in 1956.  By now I am a bit confused.  Everyone has told me the athletes will be seated during the Closing Ceremony, but here is the boss of the Organizing Committee telling the athletes will be marching.  I tell Sandy that President Samaranch had given strict instructions for the athletes to be seated during the Closing Ceremony.  Sandy turned to me and said,  “John, while I am running the show, the athletes will march in the Closing Ceremony exactly as you said in your letter”.  After my meeting, I thought to myself, who is going to win this battle?

In February 2000, Michael Knight minister for the Olympics issues a press statement to say the athletes will now take part in the Closing Ceremony and will not be seated as planned.  Those seats will now be sold to the public.  The IOC had reserved a whole section of the Stand to entertain all the IOC members and the so call Olympic Family including all the athletes.  9000 seats had been reserved including a large number of corporate boxes.  Sandy had won the battle or so it seemed.

Several months later, Michael Knight is offered a position on the board for the Olympic Truce to be taken up at the end of the Games.   A few weeks before the Opening Ceremony, Michael Knight sacks Sandy Hollway and places his own team to run the 2000 Games.  At the time I was living in Romania and it was difficult to find out what was going on and I was wondering if my invitation was still on.  My invitation and tickets arrived but I was concerned that if I went and the athletes did not take part in the Closing Ceremony, it might be embarrassing for me.  NBC and Channel 7 had done programmes about me which was shown worldwide at the start of the Games. 

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I arrived in Sydney halfway through the Games, and I am met at the airport by John Bowen manager for SOCOG office.  John fills me in about Sandy Hollway and is very sad as to what has happened in the last couple of months.  John says SOCOG would like me to attend a press conference the next day to help them to sell 9000 tickets for the Closing Ceremony.  I am not too happy about it, but as I am a guest of SOCOG, I agree to do it.  The papers were accusing SOCOG for being incompetent for not selling the tickets to the public and Micheal Knight was blaming Sandy Hollway for the fiasco.

On the day of the Closing Ceremony, I arrived at the Stadium with my sister Grace as I was able to bring along one guest.  I was expecting to be met by a SOCOG official but no such luck.  We make our way to the Corporate Suite and we are met by the manager in charge of the Suite.  He said our names were not on the list and he would not let us in.  I showed him my invitation but he still said “No!”  As I was walking out to go home, he called me back and ask who had invited me.  He wanted to know why was I invited and what was my connection with the Olympic Games.  For the next ten minutes, I had to tell him how I wrote a letter back in 1956 which was to change the Closing Ceremony.   He then said to go and get myself a drink.  On my right, I could see one stand completely empty, this is where the athletes were to be seated had they not been allowed to march in the Closing Ceremony.  Not once did I see or meet a SOCOG official during the Closing Ceremony.  They must have been very busy.   Sandy Hollway did come to see me and he apologised that things had not gone to plan. 

The Olympic Games seem to haunt me because in 1980 I wanted to attend the Moscow Olympic Games.  I paid £1300 for my flight from London, accommodation and event tickets.  This was a lot of money for me in those days.  The day before I was due to fly out, I get a phone call from the travel agent to say that the Soviet Government had refused a visa to many westerners.  This was due, I believe, to the boycott of the Games by many western countries.  I did receive £200 refund for my flight but this still left me £1100 out of pocket.  The IOC  should never allow this sort of thing to happen, but then they would say it is up to the Government who is hosting the Games to put things right.

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