Held in Perth from November 22nd to December 1st, with the first ever Paraplegic Games running November 10-17th, the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games were a showcase of Perth's potential as a hub for international sport, with the Paraplegic games seen as a beacon of rehabilitation in Australia.
The Commonwealth Games were officially opened by HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at Perry Lakes Stadium, the grounds of which the WA Athletics Stadium now sits, in Floreat. While the Paraplegic games were opened by Premier Charles Gairdner at the Royal Agricultural Showgrounds, in Claremont. 973 Athletes representing 35 of the Commonwealth nations competed at several venues around Perth for a chance to take home gold in a total of 196 events.
Built in 1962, Perry Lakes Stadium served as the venue for both opening and closing ceremonies, as well as track and field events held for the Commonwealth Games. At maximum capacity it could hold an approximate 30,000 spectators and stood proud for almost 50 years until it was demolished in 2009 to make way for the current Western Australian Athletics Stadium. It's estimated a combined 210,000 spectators turned out to view the games in their entirety.
The athletics were held here, with athletes competing in a total of 31 track and field events. The 1962 games saw the reintroduction of two events, the 800 yard and the 3000 metre steeplechase. Heavy winds and hot weather affected the programme, which required soldiers from the Australian Army to hand out cold water to spectators on the day.
Swimming and diving were held at Beatty Park Leisure Centre, in North Perth. Australia won 15 out of a possible 23 events with Aussie legends Dawn Fraser and Murray Rose taking the gold medal in four events each. The men's and women's diving events were tied for first place with Australian Susan Wright and Briton Brian Phelps winning 2 gold apiece. The women's 110 yard breaststroke (above) was won by English swimmer Anita Lonsbourgh.
"It's no wonder the city is bursting - both at the seams and with pride. The pride has increased daily as more and more people have arrived by road, rail, sea, and air, and Perth has got properly into its international swing."
-Cynthia Robinson, Australian Women's Weekly, 28 November 1962
The Paraplegic Games were conceived by Australian doctor Sir George Montario Bendbrook OBE, and were sponsored and organised by Royal Perth Hospital. They were the first time Perth would play host to major sporting event and paved the way for Western Australia's great history with international sport. Athletes and spectators alike praised the organisation of the event, as well as the provided facilities, such as a television lounge, shop, and women's hairdresser. Additional events exclusive to the Paraplegic games included archery, dartchery, snooker, and table tennis.
"Then was the moment to think of the fabulous organisation that went into the Games, from start to finish there wasn't a hitch. If we needed a postage stamp, that was easy. If licking the back of it had given us a thirst for iced water, that was easy too. The highest tribute that can be paid is that it all appeared so effortless, as though it all just happened".
-Sir Gaynor Harry KBE, Welsh athlete, "Wales to Western Australia for the 'Para' Games", 1963