When Perth stood tall

• Swim medal ceremony at Beatty Park, November 1962. Image from Vincent Local History Centre, COV PH05733

1962 Empire Games

AFTER recently delving into the unofficial first uses of Beatty Park Leisure Centre and its multiple clandestine first swimmers who dove in before opening day (“Did you take the plunge,” Voice, September 3, 2022), this week the Vincent Local History Centre brings us the story of the more official uses of the venue as the grounds for the 1962 Commonwealth Games.

THIS month marks the 60th birthday of Beatty Park Leisure Centre which was built for the VIIth British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1962.  

The event saw Perth take its place on the world’s sporting stage with a new-found confidence and energy. 

Planning for the Games began in the late 1950s with construction of the athletics stadium and athletes’ village at Perry Lakes in Wembley and the cycling velodrome in Leederville (now Litis Stadium).  

After several years of heated debate about where the main aquatic venue should be built, Beatty Park Reserve in North Perth won over Kings Park as the chosen site. 

Workers broke ground at Beatty Park Reserve in mid-to-late 1961. 

Project manager Len Spence oversaw a 12-month whirlwind of pool construction that finished just in time for the Games.

The late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, officially opened the Games at Perry Lakes Stadium in front of a crowd of almost 50,000. 

Over 850 competitors representing 35 countries took part in a range of sports from 22 November to 1 December.   

In the pool, Dawn Fraser and Murray Rose reigned supreme over their Commonwealth competitors. 

• Pam Sargeant, Dawn Fraser, Linda McGill and Marguerite Ruygrok, from the victorious Australian women’s medley relay team at Beatty Park, 1962. COV PHO889.

“It was a fantastic pool and great to swim in – well before its time,” recalled Fraser, who won two of Australia’s 14 gold medals in the swimming and diving events.  

Eight new world records were set in the pool during the Games, including the women’s 440-yard medley relay which was anchored by Fraser.  

Out of the pool, despite a scorching heatwave, Perth laid on a variety of events and activities such as sailing regattas.

Many Perth residents remember the buzz and excitement of the Games.

“It was very, very exciting and very, very busy, full on and everything was new to everybody,” said former Beatty Park pool manager Rod Hounslow.

“We were up in the grandstand there watching it all happen. It was as full as it can be – it was just a huge attraction. We saw the diving, the swimming, all the sprinting. Murray Rose in his 800 yards swim, the whole lot – we went every day,” said local Peter Kora

“The year 1962 will no doubt be talked about for a long time. The year that Perth reached its peak for publicity, the year that Perth became known as the City of Light and the year that Perth had the honour of being the host city for the Empire and Commonwealth Games,” said Francis Raymond Whay.

Over the years, Beatty Park has been renovated and upgraded to meet the changing needs of the Perth community.  

To celebrate its 60th birthday, Beatty Park is hosting two events in late November.

The centre’s Sixties Sundowner over-18’s event on Friday, November 25 will pay homage to its early years as a concert venue and feature 60s tribute bands The Santana Experience and The Hijacked Hollies.  

Tickets are $35 each including cocktail food and one drink at the on-site bar and can be purchased at the Beatty reception or online.

The centre will host an all-ages Retro Family Fun Day, from 2 – 6pm on Saturday, November 26. 

There will be retro-themed entertainment including mermaids, gogo dancers, a hula hooper, bubble artist, living statues and a DJ playing tunes from acts that performed at the centre in the 60s and 70s. 

If you have memories you’d like to share about Beatty Park, come and share your memories with the Local History Centre staff at Beatty Park on 22 November from 2 – 6pm in the cafe, or at the Retro Family Fun Day on November 26 from 2 – 6pm.

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