John Ian Wing

John Ian Wing (born 18 November 1939) is an Australian-born British resident of Chinese descent who, as a student in Australia in 1956, wrote an anonymous letter to the International Olympic Committee suggesting the athletes from all countries mingle during the closing parade of the Summer Olympics held in Melbourne that year. His idea was used that Olympiad and has remained an Olympic tradition since that time.


Born John Wing in Windsor, Melbourne, he was only a few days old when his mother died. His father placed him in the Melbourne Children's Home and he remained there for several years. The name Ian was given to him by staff at the Home, as there were already many other boys at the Home named John. When his father remarried he was removed from the Home and sent back to his family, who lived above his father's Chinese cafe in Bourke Street, Melbourne.[1]

1956 Summer OlympicsEdit

Just days before the closing ceremony of the 1956 Summer Olympics at Melbourne, the Olympic committee received an anonymous letter. This letter encouraged the Olympics to do something they had never done before. It was a suggestion that would bring all the athletes together as a symbol of global unity. The athletes must not march but walk freely and wave to the public during the closing ceremonies. The suggestion was adopted and Olympic teams have done so ever since.[2]

Thirty years later, a Chinese individual named John Ian Wing revealed himself to the world as having written the letter and became a hero of the Olympic Games. He became recognised with an Olympic medal for his historic contribution to the Olympic Games. At the time of the letter, Wing was a 17-year-old apprentice carpenter. He did not state who he was because he did not want his family to know he had written such a letter. Distinguishing oneself by presenting one's ideas (even good ideas) to important people would have been considered impertinent and rude. According to another memoir, he was also worried that the officials would think it was a "dumb idea".[3] With all the media attention he wrote a second letter, including his name and address, and explaining why he had wanted to remain anonymous. John’s idea has become an Olympic tradition and were especially appropriate for Melbourne's "Friendly Games".

Wing later revealed that his idea was inspired by his observations of crowds attending the nearby Palace Theatre (then known as the St James cinema) which was located two doors from the restaurant in Bourke Street where he lived.[4][5]

A street in the former Athlete's Village at the site of the 2000 Summer Olympics at Sydney has been named John Ian Wing Parade in his honour.


  1. ^ John Ian Wing: Methodist Children’s Homes and the Olympics 1956 Archived 17 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Wing's account of his early life, page found 2011-06-28.
  2. ^ Gordon, Harry (24 September 2003). "The changing face of a dear-old arena". The Age. Perhaps the greatest single contribution the 1956 Games made to the Olympic movement came from an anonymous Chinese boy, a 17-year-old apprentice carpenter who wrote cheekily to the organisers suggesting that the procession at the closing ceremony should not be a traditional march, with divided nations, but one joyous intermingled affair, with athletes from all nations linking arms and waving. The idea was adopted, and that is the way it has been since. That Chinese lad, later identified as John Ian Wing, changed the closing ceremony forever. On the 30th anniversary of the Games, through an essay in Time magazine, I played a role in finding him – living as a builder in England.
  3. ^ John Ian Wing: Methodist Children’s Homes and the Olympics 1956 Archived 17 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine, describing his life in an orphanage, adoption and details of why he wrote the letter.
  4. ^ Wing, John Ian. "History of the Olympic Closing Ceremony". Retrieved 4 December 2014. At the time, I was living above my father's restaurant at 16 Bourke Street Melbourne, which was two doors away from St James picture theatre. It was now about 11.00pm. A few hours earlier, looking down into the street, I watched people lining up in an orderly manner waiting to go into the theatre. Now I watched them come out in one big mass, spilling out onto the road and stopping the traffic. They were smiling and laughing and even talking to strangers as if they had known each other before. Then the ‘idea’ came to me. As I was writing my letter to the chairman of the Organising Committee, I suggested that all the athletes of the world should come together for the closing ceremony, to unite and intermingle and enter the Stadium as One Nation. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Culpepper, Chuck (23 August 2008). "His big idea had legs". Los Angeles Times.

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