By David McPherson
The 1962 opening of the Perth British Empire Games was marked by scorching 40 degree temperatures, ‘dancing girls’ and the release of thousands of pigeons.
A crowd of more than 50,000 gathered at Perry Lakes Stadium to watch the Games opened by Prince Phillip who read a message from the Queen.
“Athletes from 33 Commonwealth countries are about to engage in an intense although friendly rivalry. I am sure no quarter will be asked or given,” he said.
“I am equally sure, however, that the personal friendships which will be made in Perth during the next two weeks will serve to strengthen the links which bind our family of nations together.”
The ceremony featured a number of demonstrations with performers giving their best in the sweltering conditions.
“More than 300 dancing girls and 360 marching girls gave demonstrations before the opening, to the background of a 720-voice male choir,” the Canberra Times wrote.
“The bands led in 360 marching girls dressed brilliantly in colourful dresses and scarves. They gave a demonstration of British, Malayari, Pakistani and Australian folk dances.”
“As a finale they danced ‘the swagman’s stroll’ to the tune of Waltzing Matilda. It was the first time the unofficial Australian anthem had been played and cheers rang out from the crowd.”
Australia’s most successful Commonwealth boxer Tony Madigan was the Australian flagbearer for the ceremony. He went on to win gold in the light-heavyweight division.
The celebrations were capped off by the release of pigeons, leaving observers saying the event was better organised than the previous ceremony in Cardiff.
“As the Prince declared the Games open 2000 pigeons soared into the sky above the Lake Perry Stadium,” the Canberra Times wrote.
“The use of immature birds paid off when they hovered for some time over the assembled athletes seeking bearing before finding their way home.”