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Best Moments of Alpine Skiing in the Winter Games. Innsbruck 1964

After Innsbruck failed to be chosen to host the Games in 1960, the Mayor of the capital of Tirol submitted a further bid to host the Games in 1964. For the first time, at the 56th IOC Session in Munich, in 1959, the International Federations attended the candidate city presentations and gave their views on the election. Innsbruck won the vote, obtaining 49 votes, with 9 for Calgary (Canada) and none for Lahti (Finland).

The IX Olympic Winter Games, commonly known as Innsbruck 1964, was celebrated in Innsbruck, Austria, from January 29 to February 9, 1964.

Innsbruck 1964 Winter Games attracted 1,091 participants (892 men and 199 women) representing 36 countries (NOCs). The program consisted of six sports and 34 separate events.

On 29 January 1964, the President of Austria, Adolf Schärf, declared the 9th Olympic Winter Games open. The bobsleigher Paul Aste swore the Olympic Oath, and the Alpine skier, Joseph Rieder, lit the Olympic Flame.

The Alpine Skiing events in the Winter Games Innsbruck 1964 were held in Axamer Lizum, except for the Men's Downhill race which took place in Patscherkofel.

When the organizing committee began its work, it became clear within a few weeks that

a large part of the plans laid down in the application from the city of Innsbruck could not be realized.

At the end of May 1960, the organizing committee and the representatives of the Austrian Ski Association were faced with the responsible task of submitting proposals for the following race courses in the shortest possible time: Women's Downhill, Women's Slalom, Men's Slalom, Women's Giant Slalom, Men's Giant Slalom, and a Men's reserve Downhill course. The Men's Downhill course had already been fixed in Patscherkofel.

The creation of new Alpine Ski competition courses understandably also aroused the interest of all skiing circles in the city of Innsbruck and the state of Tyrol.

The generous construction of alpine competition venues also meant opening a new ski area near the city. The distinguished mountaineer and co-founder of the Austrian Mountain Rescue Service, Professor Wastl Mariner, has been vigorously advocating for the choice of the Axamer Lizum as the main venue for the Alpine competitions for years. Another group relied on a report by the mountaineer Matthias (Hias) Rebitsch and recommended the development of the so-called Viggartal, an area south of the Patscherkofel. The Secretary General of the Organizing Committee, Professor Friedl Wolfgang, who was also Chairman of the FIS Downhill Slalom Committee, and the ÖSV experts, engineer Hubert Spieß and Professor Wastl Mariner, examined both possible areas with the help of an army helicopter. As early as July 2, 1960, the Secretary-General was able to submit a clear report to the Sports Committee, according to which the Axamer Lizum was proposed for development and the construction of reserve routes at higher altitudes could be dispensed with. The Sports Committee unanimously decided in its fourth meeting on July 2, 1960, to designate the Axamer Lizum as the main competition venue for alpine skiing. Finally, it should be mentioned that the representatives of all ski clubs in the Innsbruck-Land area and the experts officially delegated by the Austrian Ski Association to the board and committees of the Organizing Committee of the IX Olympic Winter Games 1964 unanimously voted in favor of choosing the Hoadl area.

To finance the development, the "Axamer Lizum Aufschließungs-AG" was founded on March 18, 1961, with its headquarters in Innsbruck. The shareholders of this joint-stock company are the Republic of Austria, the state of Tyrol, the city of Innsbruck, and the municipalities of Götzens, Birgitz, Axams, and Grinzens. The object of the company was the development of the Axamer Lizum and neighboring areas for the purposes of winter sports.

The determination of the competition venues for the men's downhill race on the Patscherkofel and the other competitions, including a reserve course for the men's downhill race on the Axamer Lizum, has proven extremely useful in practice.

Alpine Skiing in the Winter Games. Innsbruck 1964
Alpine Skiing in the Winter Games. Innsbruck 1964

A lack of snow threatened the Innsbruck Winter Games. The Austrian army rushed to the rescue, carving out 20,000 blocks of ice from the glaciers and transporting them down to the luge and bobsleigh tracks. They also carried 40,000 cubic meters of snow to the Alpine skiing slopes and left 20,000 cubic meters of spare snow as a backup.

Thanks to the soldiers’ efforts, the unseasonal warmth did not prove disastrous, and the Games got underway on time. The 1964 Winter Games were a big success overall. Worldwide interest in the Winter Games also continued to grow, and television companies were prepared to pay more and more for the broadcasting rights. The city of Innsbruck was congratulated by the IOC President, Avery Brundage, for the flawless running of the event.

Innsbruck 1964 Winter Games

The Goitschel sisters, Christine and Marielle from Val-d’Isère, both lined up in the women’s Olympic Slalom at Innsbruck 1964, held on February 1 at Axamer Lizum, with Marielle kicking off the competition. Producing an explosive run on the 51-gate course, eighteen-year-old Marielle Goitschel stopped the clock in 43.09, a time that would go unbeaten, with sister Christine, who went out 14th, the only other skier to dip below the 44-second mark with a time of 43.85.

In the second run, it was Christine’s turn to outpace the field, negotiating the 56-gate course a second and a half faster than Marielle to claim the gold and complete the very first one-two by sisters in Winter Games history.

Two days later, Marielle got her revenge and finished ahead of her big sister in the Giant Slalom. In a one-run race, Christine posted a time of 1:53.11, which was later equaled by Saubert. The two were still out front when Marielle, starting 14th, flew down the 56-gate course in 1:52.24 to snatch the title from her sister and Saubert, completing a remarkable double for the French siblings, a feat unique in the history of the Winter Games.

When she was later asked to name her highlight of the Innsbruck Games, Marielle replied, without a moment’s hesitation: “When Christine won the slalom and I came second. Even when I won the giant, I didn’t get as excited" Christine added: “It was unique! It was the first time! They were the most wonderful two or three minutes of our lives. After that, it doesn’t belong to you anymore”.

Austria swept the Women's Downhill podium with Christl Haas (gold), Edith Zimmermann (silver), and Waltraud J. "Traudl" Hecher-Görgl (bronze).

Christl Haas became a national hero as a twenty-year-old Olympic champion in the Downhill event at the Innsbruck 1964 Winter Games. She became an instant superstar in her homeland as she won the gold medal in her home nation.

Innsbruck 1964. Josef Stiegler and Karl Schranz

Austrian Josef Pepi Stiegler was the only double medallist in Men’s Alpine skiing at Innsbruck 1964.

Starting with bib 1 in the Giant Slalom, Stiegler posted a time of 1:48.05, one that ultimately proved good enough for bronze, with only France’s François Bonlieu and fellow Austrian Karl Schranz going faster, taking gold and silver respectively.

Six days later Stiegler won gold in the Slalom beating USA teammates William “Billy” Kidd and Jimmy Heuga.

Innsbruck 1964 Winter Games. Men's Slalom. Axamer Lizum

Local hero Egon Zimmermann, from Lech Am Arlberg, thrilled the home fans by winning the gold medal in a Downhill held in front of a vociferous home crowd on the Patscherkofel in Igls on the penultimate day of January.

Zimmermann, with bib number 7, hurled himself through the start gate and into a thrilling and perfectly executed run that ended with him crossing the finish line with a winning time of 2:18.16. France’s Léo Lacroix and Germany’s Wolfgang Bartels rounded out the podium in second and third place respectively.

Tragedy struck the Innsbruck 1964 Winter Games. During a training run for the Men's Downhill at Patscherkofel on January 25, Ross Milne of Australia lost control and left the course; he hit a tree and later died of a head injury.

Alpine skiing was officially timed for the first time to within one-hundredth of a second.

Innsbruck 1964 Downhill slope Patscherkofel
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Innsbruck 1964 Axamer Lizum racecourses
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