Sunday, November 23, 2014

Maroubra's Olympia Speedway - now housing (and a park)

I've raced both cars and bicycles and part of the interest - if not the actual thrill - is, for me at least,  the race tracks or circuits themselves. Maybe it's the design, or the history, or the cultural associations; I don't know. Maybe humans just have an affinity with tracks. Perhaps it's all of that. I even like old horse/pony tracks yet I've never been to "the races".

Anyway, I'm not that into oval speedway racing but I do like the famous old race tracks. And Sydney's Maroubra "Olympia" Speedway is a fine example of a banked concrete bowl or oval, modelled as it were along the lines of an overgrown bicycle velodrome. Which is pretty much exactly what it is, or was.

Here's a map I found several times in several places, presumably all scanned out of a Wilson's street directory (or similar) circa 1928... BTW it's not shown in my 1926 Wilson's and is just a blank space in later Robinson's directories, but there you go... and here it is:
If you race pushbikes at Heffron Park (as I used to do) you'll know the area - it's just a hop, skip and a wheelie across Anzac Parade. And in the 1920s that equated to a long way out of town. When competition reopened at the much more convenient Sydney Showground patronage at Maroubra fell sharply. Coupled with the free viewing offered from local sandhills and a possibly undeserved reputation as a "killer" track (although it was indeed the scene of several deaths) revenues failed to match costs.. and thus it closed.

If you look at today's maps you'll see housing with a park in the middle. No sandhills! It's been that way for as long as I can recall. Actually there is a remnant sandhill in Heffron Park, less than a kilometre to the west, if you want to check it out. Heffron itself was a military base, then migrant housing before re-dedication as a park with public pool, cycling (criterium) circuit and other sports fields. It's likely that the original indigenous people camped there as well with some evidence of fire and middens in the area, although sadly much of that evidence has been lost.    

Further related reading on this site:

or checkout my list of Sydney and surrounding airstrips and airports

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