1976 Winter Olympics


Competition type Olympic Games
Number and Year XII / 1976
Host city Innsbruck, Austria (Venues)
Opening ceremony 4 February
Closing ceremony 15 February
Competition dates 3 – 15 February
OCOG Denver Olympic Organizing Committee, Organisationskomitee für die XII. Olympischen Winterspiele Innsbruck 1976
Participants 1129 from 37 countries
Medal events 37 in 10 disciplines


In May 1970, the IOC awarded the 12th Olympic Winter Games to Denver, Colorado – and later rued the choice. The citizens of Denver, probably prompted at least in part by the debacle that was occurring with the wanton spending in Montréal for 1976, did not want the Olympics. They were also very concerned about the environmental impact that would be made by construction of all the sporting facilities. In November 1972, a public referendum voted against the Olympics and on 12 November 1972, Denver informed the IOC that they would not host the 1976 Olympic Winter Games. On short notice, the IOC turned to Innsbruck again, choosing that city over quickly organized bids from Lake Placid (USA), Mont Blanc (FRA), and Tampere (FIN). And once again Innsbruck demonstrated how well an Olympic Winter Games could be staged.

It was lucky for the Winter Olympics that in 1972 Lord Killanin succeeded Avery Brundage as IOC President. Brundage had developed a hatred of the Olympic Winter Games, feeling that they were too commercialized. At his farewell address to the IOC, Brundage stated that he hoped, “the Winter Olympics receive a decent burial in Denver.” Killanin wrote in his autobiography (My Olympic Years) that Brundage was pleased when Denver’s Organizing Committee began to have problems. Killanin himself noted, “I am sure that there will be some people in the IOC who will favor winding up the Winter Olympics altogether.” Fortunately, Innsbruck saved the Winter Olympic idea.

The only problem Innsbruck had, as always seems to be the case, was a lack of snow prior to the Olympics. The Austrian army was again enlisted, as in 1964, to pack the ski runs with snow hauled in from local mountaintops. Fortunately, a huge storm one week before the Olympic solved the problem.

The competitions were well contested though no single athlete could be said to dominate, as in years past. Rosi Mittermaier (FRG) was perhaps the most publicized. She won the downhill and slalom early in the Games and had a chance to equal the feats of Toni Sailer and Jean-Claude Killy by winning the giant slalom. Older than many of the competitors, close to retirement, and born nearby, just across the German border at Reit im Winkl, she was a heavy sentimental favorite. But it was not to be. Canada’s Kathy Kreiner defeated Rosi by only 12/100th’s of a second, but did not diminish her smile.

The most dramatic event was the hometown victory of Austria’s Franz Klammer in the downhill. Klammer skiied on the edge throughout his run, to narrowly defeat Switzerland’s Bernhard Russi. Some people wished to rename the Patscherkofel course the Klammerkofel to honor his victory.

In figure skating, Irina Rodnina (URS) again won a pairs gold medal, but with a different partner than in 1972. In men’s figure skating Britain’s John Curry and Canada’s Toller Cranston introduced a more balletic style than in years past. Among the women, Dorothy Hamill of the United States became a camera favorite with her pixie looks, spright-like hairdo, and omnipresent squint, as she competed without her contact lenses. In winning the gold medal, she also proved she could skate more than a little bit, too.

Innsbruck succeeded. The Austrian town had overcome the problems that had beset Denver and the Olympic Winter idea and brought back sanity to the Winter Olympics. Although there were political problems in 1980 prior to the Winter Olympics, since 1976 no Olympic Winter city has had significant problems or controversies while hosting the Olympics. Innsbruck saved the Olympic Winter Games.

Bid process

Bid voting at the 70th IOC Session in Amsterdam on 13 May 1970.

Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
Denver, Colorado United States 29 29 39
Sion Switzerland 18 31 30
Tampere Finland 12 8
Vancouver Canada 9

In November 1972, the citizens of Denver voted in a referendum to not host the Olympic Winter Games, fearing the negative environmental impact the Games could have. On 12 November 1972, Denver officially withdrew as host city. Bids were quickly solicited from Innsbruck (Austria), Lake Placid, New York (United States), Mont Blanc (France) and Tampere (Finland). Innsbruck was selected as the host at a meeting of the IOC Executive Board in Lausanne on 4 February 1973.


Officially opened by Rudolf KirchschlägerAUTPresident Dr.
Torchbearer Josef FeistmantlAUTLUGLit flame
Christl HaasAUTALPLit secondary flame
Taker of the Athlete's Oath Werner Delle KarthAUTBOB
Taker of the Official's Oath Willi KöstingerAUTNCB
Olympic Flag Bearer Yukio KasayaJPNNCB/SJPBearer
Flagbearers Full list

Medal Disciplines

Alpine Skiing Figure Skating Ski Jumping
Biathlon Ice Hockey Speed Skating
Bobsleigh Luge
Cross Country Skiing Nordic Combined

Medal table

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
Soviet Union URS 13 6 8 27
East Germany GDR 7 5 7 19
United States USA 3 3 4 10
Norway NOR 3 3 1 7
West Germany FRG 2 5 3 10
Finland FIN 2 4 1 7
Austria AUT 2 2 2 6
Switzerland SUI 1 3 1 5
Netherlands NED 1 2 3 6
Italy ITA 1 2 1 4
Canada CAN 1 1 1 3
Great Britain GBR 1 0 0 1
Czechoslovakia TCH 0 1 0 1
Liechtenstein LIE 0 0 2 2
Sweden SWE 0 0 2 2
France FRA 0 0 1 1

Most successful competitors

Athlete Nat Gold Silver Bronze Total
Rosi Mittermaier FRG 2 1 0 3
Raisa Smetanina RUS
2 1 0 3
Tatyana Averina-Barabash RUS
2 0 2 4
Bernhard Germeshausen GDR 2 0 0 2
Nikolay Kruglov RUS
2 0 0 2
Meinhard Nehmer GDR 2 0 0 2
Helena Kivioja-Takalo FIN 1 2 0 3
Sheila Young USA 1 1 1 3
Ivar Formo NOR 1 1 0 2
Piet Kleine NED 1 1 0 2
Sten Stensen NOR 1 1 0 2

All medalists at these Games