Closing ceremony February 5, 1956
Next Winter Olympics Contenders: Colorado Springs, Lake Placid,
was Italy's turn. Originally scheduled to host the 1944 Games which
were cancelled because of World War II, Cortina finally got its
chance. Although the Games got off to an ominous start—the
torch bearer tripped and fell during the opening ceremony—they
were a resounding success. Even the threat of insufficent snow
proved a needless worry.
Cortina, one of the most beautiful winter resorts in the world,
hosted the seventh edition of the winter Olympics. Giuliana Minuzzo,
the first woman to do so in the history of the Olympics, read the
oath. The Olympic flame was lit at the Campidoglio in Rome and
blessed by the Pope. Italian television (RAI) provided live coverage
for the first time. The Games saw the arrival of a new national
team at the quadrennial Olympic gathering: the Soviet Union. East
and West German athletes competed together under a unified flag.
Cortina d'Ampezzo (population 8000) is a town in the province
of Veneto, northern Italy. Located in the Dolomites at an altitude
of 1210 m, it is a popular winter sport resort.
Probably the among the three most exclusive mountain locations
in Europe, Cortina is known for its first class Hotels and shops.
The Soviet Union, competing in its first Olympic Winter Games,
was the major story. Soviets won 7 of 24 events. Austrian skier
Toni Sailer was a dominating force of his own, sweeping the downhill,
slalom and giant slalom by a large margin. This feat was duplicated
by Jean-Claude Killy twelve years later.
In the speed skating events the Soviet Union swept all but the
10,000m which was won by Sweden's Sigvard Ericsson, leaving Norway
without a gold medal in speed skating for the first time in 24
years. The Norwegians fared more successfully in the area of cross-country
skiing, with 1952 defending gold medallist Hallgeir Brenden again
winning gold. However the Norwegians suffered more disappointment
in ski jumping, in which their highest finish was ninth.
The Americans performed well in figure skating, HayesJenkins won
the men's competition, while Tenley Albright won the ladies' competition,
with teammate Carol Heiss taking the silver.
Italy and Switzerland won the two- and four-man bobsled events
respectively. Once again The Soviet Union made its presence felt
in winning the hockey competition without losing a game; beating
both USA (4-0) and the Canadian masters (2-0). In something of
a surprise, the United States finished second, and the Canadians
third, marking the first time the Americans finished in front of
the Canadians in Olympic competition.
Competing in its first Winter Olympic Games, the Soviet Union
led the medals table with 16.