After narrowly losing out for 1960 to the phantom Squaw Valley, Innsbruck was an almost unanimous choice to host the 1964 Olympics. And few better choices have ever been made by the IOC. Innsbruck became the first winter city to spread the Olympic events around geographically a bit with some events being held 30 km. (20 miles) from Innsbruck centre. Because of this and the central location of the city, well over a million spectators saw these Olympics. In addition, television now transmitted them to over a billion viewers. Computers were also present for the first time at an Olympics, as the electronic age came to Olympia.
With all this, there were a few problems. The organizing committee forgot to order snow for the events, and warm weather caused by the Föhn, a warm-weather wind, caused havoc with the ski courses. In the last few days, the Austrian army hauled 20,000 cubic metres of snow to the ski courses so they would be well packed.
In practice before the Games, two athletes were killed – Ross Milne, an Australian skiier, and Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypecki, a Polish-born British luger. There were several other serious injuries in training and the national teams complained that both the bob run and the downhill skiing course, known as the “Course of Fear”, were too dangerous. In memory of the deceased athletes, all flags were flown at half-staff during the Olympics and organizers attached a black ribbon of mourning to the Olympic Flag.
Soviet women were the biggest winners at Innsbruck. Lidiya Skoblikova produced one of the great performances of the Olympic Winter Games when she won all four women’s speed skating gold medals in four days. In women’s cross-country skiing, Klavdiya Boyarskikh won gold medals in all three women’s events. The Soviets also ensured there would be no repeat of 1960 and won the ice hockey title easily. But in bobsledding, both events produced big upsets. The two-man title was won by Britain Tony Nash and Robin Dixon, while the four-man champion sled from Canada was driven by Vic Emery. Neither country had a bobsled run in 1964.
The British two-man bobsled gold medal remains the biggest upset in Olympic bobsled history; there are no bobsled runs in Great Britain, nor were there any in 1964. The favorite was Italy’s Eugenio Monti, who had won multiple world championships, but had yet to win an Olympic gold medal. In 1956 at Cortina, he had won two silver medals, and the lack of bobsled in 1960 at Squaw Valley cost him a chance in 1960. But Monti sacrificed his own chance at victory before the Brit’s fourth run, when he learned that they had broken a bolt from their sled and did not have a replacement. Monti, who had finished, took a similar bolt from his own sled and gave it to Nash and Dixon and they used it to defeat him. For this, Eugenio Monti was eventually awarded the International Fair Play Award by the United Nations.