Friendly Melbourne

May 10, 2017

One of the spectators watching the parade of athletes enter the Main Stadium on 22 November was 16-year-old Elayne Ginn. When the Canadian team went past, while those around her politely clapped he jumped to her feet to cheer.  She had picked out Gerry Ouellette, a Canadian shooter she had befriended, and seeing him march thrilled the young girl. Later, as the Pakistani team marched by, again she jumped to her feet as she saw another athlete she knew, the sprinter Abdullah Khan. She had first met these two athletes outside the entrance of the Olympic Village, when, after signing her autograph book, they started to chat to the petite wide-eyed teenager.

Elayne lived in Reservoir, a 20 minute walk to the Olympic Village that required her fording Darebin Creek. At first she went to the entrance of the Village, and joined a throng of Australians of all ages, thrusting her autograph book as athletes left the Village.  The athletes were overwhelmed by the friendliness of the Australians, and after chatting to Gerry and Abdullah, and liking them, she invited them home. This was not unusual, and athletes prized such invites as it gave them an opportunity to see how real Australians lived.  The Sunday after the Opening Ceremony, Elayne picked up the athletes, and rather than taking the shortcut as she usually did, fording the Darebin Creek, she took them by bus to the Ginn household. When they arrived, Gerry had brought Mrs Ginn flowers and Khan, chocolate. After fielding a barrage of questions from the curious Ginns, that sat down at the dining room table where they were treated to a roast lamb lunch, with all the trimmings, followed by Mrs Ginn’s famous wine trifle with fresh cream and milky tea. He brothers, 5-year-old Bill and 8 year-old Steven were on their best behaviour. Not only was the Olympic Games exciting for them, but they had done quite nicely out of the Games. Their parents had bought the first TV in the neighbourhood—the first broadcast in Melbourne was on 4 November and there were only 5,000 sets in Australia (half that number in Melbourne)—which the boys saw as a business opportunity. While Elayne watched the opening ceremony, her brothers invited in the neighbourhood kids, with Bill collecting sixpence and Steven tapping them on the shoulder when their 30 minutes was up.

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