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Melbourne was founded by free settlers in 1835, 47 years after the first European settlement of Australia, as a pastoral settlement situated around the Yarra River. Transformed rapidly into a major metropolis by the Victorian gold rush in the 1850s, 'Marvellous Melbourne' became Australia's largest and most important city. Melbourne's growth slowed during the early 20th century and was overtaken by Sydney's.
Today, Melbourne is a major centre of commerce, industry and cultural activity. It is consistently ranked one of the most liveable cities in the world.
The city is recognised as Australia's 'sporting and cultural capital' and it is home to many of the nation's most significant cultural and sporting events and institutions. It has been recognised as a gamma world city by the Loughborough University group's 1999 inventory. Melbourne is notable for its mix of Victorian and contemporary architecture, its extensive tram network and Victorian parks and gardens, as well as its diverse, multicultural society. Melbourne has hosted many international conferences and events, including the 1956 Summer Olympics and the 2006 Commonwealth Games. It was the location of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 1981 and the 2006 G20 summit.