The Games arrived in Australia but there were no Dutch, no Spanish, no Swiss and no horses.
The three nations withdrew in protest at the Soviet invasion of Hungary. A separate issue — the Suez crisis — led to a boycott by Egypt and Lebanon. Australia's quarantine laws prevented the Olympic nations from taking their horses into the country, so a separate equestrian competition was held in Stockholm.
Taiwan competed, so China didn't. Significant debutants included Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya and Germany entered a united team, this time comprising some East Germans.
The hosts made their mark in the pool, with eight swimming gold medals including three for the 17-year-old Murray Rose. Dawn Fraser at 19 took gold ahead of 18-year-old Lorraine Crapp in the 100m freestyle, the placings were reversed at 400m and the pair joined forces to take gold in the 4 x 100m relay. There was also double diving success for Pat McCormick, who repeated her success of 1952 in winning the platform and springboard titles.
On the track, the first three home in the women's 100m and 200m were the same, with the Australians Betty Cuthbert and Marlene Matthews separated by the German Christa Stubnick. Cuthbert added a third gold in the 4x100m relay, with team-mate Shirley Strickland adding to her gold in the 80m sprint and setting a record at the time of seven women's track and field medals.
Bobby Joe Morrow took the men's sprint double for the United States and also helped the 4 x 100m relay team to the gold medal, and there was double gold at 5,000m and 10,000m for the Soviet runner Vladimir Kuts.
But the real strength of the Soviet team as they finished top of the medals table was in gymnastics. Making her debut, Larisa Latynina won four gold medals, a silver and a bronze. Viktor Chukarin built on his success from Helsinki with three golds, a silver and a bronze. The most successful individual at the 1956 Games was Hungary's Ágnes Keleti, who collected four gold medals and two silvers in the gymnastics arena, but it was back in the pool where her country's bitter rivalry with the Soviet Union boiled over.
Hungarian water polo player Ervin Zador with a bloodied faceWith Hungary leading 4—0 and on their way to the water polo final, the referee abandoned the contest because of the level of violence in what became known as the "blood in the water match."
Hungary went on to win gold in the final against Yugoslavia and also prevailed in legitimate fighting. László Papp became the first boxer to win three consecutive gold medals at the Games, adding light-middleweight gold to his victory at the same weight in 1952 and at middleweight in 1948.
In shooting, Gerald Ouellette was denied a world record by the shortcomings of the organisers. The Canadian fired a perfect score of 600 to take the gold medal but hopes of a world record were dashed when the course was re-measured and found to be 1.5m short of the required 50m distance.
Top three performances
1-Betty Cuthbert (AUS) - Won the a sprint double and the 4x100m relay for the host nation, earning the nickname "Golden Girl".
2-Vladimir Kuts (URS) - Emerged as the heir to Emil Zatopek as the king of sidtance events, winning the 5000m and 1000m.
3-Ronnie Delany (IRE) - Raced to victory in the 1500m - Ireland have not won a track gold since.
Did you know?
1956 was the first Olympiad held outside Europe and North America. Melbourne beat Buenos Aires by a single vote in the bidding, while the USA had no fewer than six unsuccessful bid cities.
The 22 November opening ceremony date was the latest for any Olympics.
The games took place just weeks after the USSR crushed the Hungarian Revolution - a riot nearly broke out when the nations met in the water polo competition. Hungary won 4-0 and went on to claim gold.