Innsbruck earns its Winter Olympic spurs

3 min
Innsbruck earns its Winter Olympic spurs
(Picture by IOC)

Held in Paris in June 1955, the 50th Session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided which city would earn the right to host the 1960 Olympic Winter Games, with Innsbruck of Austria going up against Squaw Valley of the USA in the second round of voting. Despite ultimately losing out, the Tyrolean city nevertheless pressed ahead with its Olympic project, deciding in the months that followed to launch a bid to stage the 1964 Winter Games.

When the IOC convened at its 55th Session in Munich on 26 May 1959, the Austrian resort was not to be denied again, collecting 49 votes in the first round to see off opposing bids from Calgary (CAN) and Lahti (FIN). Incidentally, that same session awarded the 1964 Summer Games to Tokyo, the first time that a city in Asia country had earned the right to stage an Olympics.

Innsbruck could claim to be one the largest towns in the Alps, situated in a valley bisected by the River Inn, which also runs through the Swiss resort of St Moritz – the host city of the 1928 and 1948 Winter Games. It had been developing its sports facilities since the 1920s, building ski runs on the Patscherkofel as well as a wooden ski jumping hill on the Bergisel, which overlooks the city, and a bobsleigh run in Igls, to name just three of the local venues.

However, there is no doubting that the city owes its modern-day reputation as a leading winter sports and Olympic venue to the facilities it built in hosting the 1964 Winter Games. The old ski jumping hill was demolished to make way for a large concrete construction that remains to this day one of the most acclaimed hills on the global circuit, hosting one leg of the prestigious annual Four Hills tournament.

Likewise, the Igls bobsleigh and luge runs designed by the champion Austrian bobsledder and luger Paul Aste – the first runs in the world to make use of artificial ice – would also form part of Innsbruck 1964’s legacy. The same can also be said of Seefeld, which lies 15 kilometres from the city and was chosen as the venue for the cross-country skiing and biathlon events and as the site for a new normal ski jumping hill.

Also purpose-built for the occasion were the Olympiahalle, a magnificent 10,000-seater arena hosting the figure skating and ice hockey competitions, the Mesehalle, which staged a number of ice hockey matches, and the Eisschnelllaufbahn, the outdoor rink where the speed skating events were held.

All these sites now form part of the famous OlympiaWorld Innsbruck sports complex, which would go on to enjoy further development in the decades that followed the 1964 Winter Games.

Thanks to all these facilities, Innsbruck and the surrounding area have become a key destination for major international winter sports events, providing the city with the resources it needed to stage the Winter Games once again in 1976, and more recently to host the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2012.

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