The London Summer Olympics are just around the corner, and as the official Bank of the Australian athletes we are going to be glued to our TV sets to watch the thrills and spills of the action as it happens. Before the games begin, here are some fascinating facts about Australia and this most ancient of sporting contests.
- Australia has been competing in the modern Olympics since 1896 when Edwin Flack won two gold medals in the 800 metre and 1500 metre track races. He also competed in the tennis at the 1896 Olympics and won a bronze medal in a mixed team.
- Although our fierce sporting rivalry means this is never likely to happen again, in 1908 and 1912 Australia and New Zealand fielded a joint team under the name Australasia. One can only image what the combined success of such a team would be today.
- Not surprisingly, our highest-ever medal tally was for the Sydney Olympics in 2000 when Australia won a grand total of 58 medals, 16 gold, 25 silver and 17 bronze.
- We have won a total of 458 Olympic medals, 449 medals in the summer games and nine medals in the winter games.
- Swimmer Ian Thorpe has the record for the highest number of medals won by an Australian, having won nine medals in total.
- This year the Boxing Kangaroo will again be the Australian team’s Olympic mascot. The Boxing Kangaroo first captured the hearts and minds of Australians during Australia II’s battle for the 1983 America’s Cup yacht rate. It was the crew’s battle flag and at the time the Boxing Kangaroo image was owned by Australia II’s owner, business man Alan Bond.
- The Australian Olympic Committee bought the rights to the image of the golden kangaroo with the ruby gloves in the late 1980s and it has been the Australian Olympic mascot ever since.
- Three Australians share the honour of having competed in the highest number of Olympic games by an individual. Rower James Tomkins, sailor Colin Beashel and equestrian Andrew Hoy have all competed in six summer Olympics.
- The oldest Australian ever to compete in an Olympic games was sailor Bill Northam, who was 59 years 26 days when he competed in the 1964 Tokyo games. Our youngest competitor was swimmer Sandra Morgan who was 14 years 6 months when she competed in the Melbourne Olympics in 1956.
- There are only two countries that have competed at every summer Olympics of the modern era – Australia and Greece.
The 2012 Summer Olympics start on 27 July in London.