Innsbruck cements its Olympic status

Picture by IOC

The final acts of the Olympic Winter Games Innsbruck 1964 were played out on Sunday 9 February, with Norwegian ski jumper Toralf Engan winning individual large hill gold on the Bergisel and the USSR seeing off Canada 3-2 in the last match of the men’s ice hockey competition, a result that secured gold for the Soviets and left the Canadians without an Olympic ice hockey medal for the first time since 1920.

While the Opening Ceremony had taken place at the foot of the Bergisel, the Closing Ceremony was held in the Olympiahalle, with the flag bearers of the 36 participating nations taking pride of place in the arena before Engan, Veikko Kankkonen and Torgeir Brandtzæg received the applause of the crowd in stepping up to collect their large hill medals.

The flags of Greece, Austria and France – the hosts of the next Winter Games in the French city of Grenoble – were hoisted to the sound of their national anthems before, at 21:33, IOC President Avery Brundage officially declared the IX Olympic Winter Games closed. The flame burning brightly atop the Bergisel was slowly extinguished to the sound of the song Innsbruck, ich muß dich lassen (“Innsbruck, I Must Leave You”).

The Olympic Winter Games Innsbruck 1964 were a huge success in every sense and were superbly organised. In response to unseasonably low snowfall, thousands of Austrian soldiers had transported snow from the peaks of the Tyrol down to the competition venues to ensure that the events went ahead without a hitch.

Attendance figures were also high. In total, some 1,073,000 winter sports fans came along to watch the athletes in action on the slopes and at the ice rinks, with the Alpine skiing events and ice hockey matches attracting record crowds.

The Games also left an important legacy for Innsbruck. The sports facilities, roads, bridges and Olympic Village built for the event were all put to effective use in the years that followed. And when Denver (USA), which in 1970 had been chosen by the IOC to host the 1976 edition of the Winter Games, later decided to pull out, Innsbruck was named as its replacement. Though it only had three years in which to prepare for its second Olympic Winter Games, the city made use of and modernised its existing facilities and proved, once again, the perfect host.

Seefeld remains to this day a fixture on the Nordic combined World Cup calendar and also hosts major international cross-country skiing and biathlon competitions, while the Igls track is one of the world’s leading bobsleigh, luge and skeleton venues. The large hill on the Bergisel is an essential destination on the world ski jumping circuit, while OlympiaWorld Innsbruck, located in the city itself, hosts a wide variety of events.

In December 2008 Austria’s fifth-largest city (population 121,000) received the majority backing of the IOC to stage the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2012, an occasion on which it became the first city in the world to stage three Winter Games, making yet another compelling contribution to the Olympic story.


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