An amazing Olympic Story as told by John Ian Wing

Time Magazine Australia 1986

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The Chinese boy, who was not even a competitor, made a larger, more enduring contribution to the Olympic Games than many of the athletes who have contested them over the past 30 years. This is a conviction that the visitor has long nursed privately, but it grows stronger as he prowls around this large room, one of the hundreds that seem to be cobwebbed around the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It use to be a it is the store-room of the Australian Gallery of Sport, a handsome three-level structure that is taking shape beside the MCG......

  The MCG

The Gallery of Sport, which is costing federal and state governments and the Melbourne Cricket Club $A3.5 million, will be opened, on Nov 22, the 30th anniversary of Melbourne's Olympic opening ceremony........

.......But what about the Chinese boy? Where does he fit into this mosaic of sporting memory? Well, what he did was inspire one of the most cherished spectacles of the 1956 Games, and change forever the pattern of the Olympic closing ceremonies. Until Melbourne, individual teams were separated behind their flags in the final procesions. In Melbourne all available competitors marched together, and they have done so ever since. It was known at the time that the idea for a mixed parade had come from an anonymous Chinese boy, in a letter to the Olympic organizers. He was urged by officials and newspapers to come forward to identify himself, but he never did. When the official history of Melbourne's Games was published, it gave no credit to him.

  Wilfrid Kent Hughes

That is where the story might have ended, except for recent research by Shane Cahill, who is writing a social history of the Melbourne Games. Cahill has found among the papers of Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes, the organizing chief of the games, a second letter from the Chinese boy, written after the closing ceremony. We now know his name, John Ian Wing, and we know that he was an apprentice carpenter who gave his address in one letter as 16 Bourke Street.

We know he never saw the ceremony he helped to create, except in newspaper pictures. We even know how he argued his case in crayon. Writing to Kent Hughes, he explained that instead of marching in single teams (here he drew thick, one-color dots behind the same-color flags), they should march as one team (he peppered this column with blobs of mixed-up color, like confetti). He told Kent Hughes, "They must not march, but walk freely and wave to the public." That is what they did, and have done since.

The boy whose idea had such a profound effect on the Olympics would be 47 now, and the Gallery of Sport would dearly love to locate him before its first exhibition, themed, predictably enough, to the Olympics. So far no amount of phone calling (to all the Wings in several phone books), has yielded any clue, nor have inquiries through Chinese community organizations and records of the Chinese Museum, even door-knocking in Melbourne's Chinatown. One theory is that his family may have returned to Hong Kong or China. Wherever he is, it is to be hoped that John Ian Wing will please stand up. For history's sake.

  Australian Prime Minister

a KentHughesWilfred
a Menzies

Mr Robert Menzies was the Australian Prime Minister at the time of the 1956 Games, he wrote in his diary; "The Closing Ceremony was even more remarkable..........On the first day they had all marched as competitors in their national teams, preserving their national identity, headed by their national flag. On the last day they went around the arena as men and women who had learned how to be friends, who had broken down some of the barriers of language of private prejudices. And because of this, the last day became a remarkable international demonstration, carrying with it a significance which was not overlooked by anybody lucky enough to be present".

What is remarkable about this story, the boy's father and the Prime Minister were good friends, but neither men knew who wrote the letter.

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