Cortina Celebrates 60th Anniversary of 1956 Olympics

(ATR) Italian ski resort village of Cortina d’Ampezzo is celebrating 60 years since the 1956 Winter Olympic Games.

(ATR) The Italian ski resort village of Cortina d’Ampezzo is celebrating 60 years since the 1956 Winter Olympic Games.

Ladies World Cup alpine ski races and a host of events organized by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) will highlight what will be a four-day celebration in Cortina, Jan. 23-26.

The small, picturesque Dolomite Alps town in northeastern Italy hosted the 1956 Olympics between Jan. 26 – Feb. 5. More than 800 athletes from a record 32 nations competed for 24 sets of medals in four sports.

Sixty years later, Cortina is still a thriving winter sports mecca with the women’s Alpine World Cup annually contested on the steep and twisting Olympia delle Tofane piste as evidence.

"Obviously, it’s historical to be racing on the Olympic track, it’s not often that we are consistently racing on an Olympic track," said U.S. ski star Lindsey Vonn, the 2010 Olympic downhill champion.

"Normally, they have the Olympics and then we never race on it again - it’s really nice that we have such an amazing track to race on every year," Vonn said.

Cortina World Cup organizing committee secretary general Nicola Colli – a lifelong resident of Cortina – said the 1956 Games "were very important" for the town.

"The history of winter sport in Cortina started before 1956, but 1956 was an important milestone in the history of the town," Colli said. "The Olympics were a dream and the light still burns here. Some of the athletes are still alive and they will take part during the world cup this weekend."

Guido Caroli, the final torchbearer at the 1956 opening ceremony, and Giuliana Minuzzo, who recited the Athletes Oath, have been invited to Cortina for the races and celebration.

Also part of the 60th Anniversary celebrations, a gala dinner is scheduled on Jan. 25 and the Italian Olympic Committee Executive Board will meet on Jan. 26, exactly 60 years since the Cortina 1956 opening ceremony.

At Sunday’s super-G, the ladies will compete with the Olympic Rings adorned on their race bibs, another tribute to 1956.

Italian ski fans will be excited to see if Vonn can capture her 37th career World Cup downhill victory on the Olympia delle Tofane piste on Saturday. If Vonn wins, she will move one past Austrian legend Annemarie Moser-Proell as the most decorated downhill racer, male or female, of all-time.

Vonn, who has nine career victories on Cortina’s slopes, spoke of the storied Italian resort’s majesty.

"Cortina is one of my favorite places, not just for the track, but also because of how beautiful of a place it is," Vonn said. "It’s truly incredible and it’s very humbling and there’s just a great energy about Cortina."

Overall World Cup leader Lara Gut echoed similar thoughts about the historic winter sports town.

"We are lucky – it’s so beautiful here in the Dolomites," said the 24-year-old Swiss skier. "Cortina is an amazing place."

Surrounding the sunny Cortina Valley are five awe-inspiring mountain peaks, some say a connection to Cortina’s Olympic past, symbolic of the five Olympic rings.

Remembering the 1956 Games

The 1956 Cortina Olympics were groundbreaking in many ways. They were the first Winter Games to be broadcast to a multi-national audience.

As the first Olympics, summer or winter to come to Italy, they were also unique in that many of Cortina’s venues were within walking distance of each other.

Additionally, the Cortina Olympics were the first Games in which organizers needed to rely substantially on corporate sponsorship to fund the Games. For example, Fiat was designated as the official car of the 1956 Winter Olympics.

Cortina d’Ampezzo attained further notoriety as its slopes and three of the Olympic venues were prominent film locations in the 1981 James Bond film For Your Eyes Only.

"A lot has changed in Cortina since the 1956 Games – new buildings and construction, but if we compare Cortina to other ski resorts, we’ve tried to protect the environment and all of the woods around the town," Colli said.

Rome 2024 Bid

Italian sport leaders are hoping that the buzz generated from Cortina d’Ampezzo’s Olympic Anniversary could even spark interest and build momentum for Rome’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Italian NOC president Giovanni Malago is arriving into Cortina on Friday, one day after he accompanied prime minister Matteo Renzi on a visit to Lausanne. Along with members of Rome 2024, the Italian leaders met with IOC president Thomas Bach regarding the bid.

Alpine World Champs Coming to Cortina d’Ampezzo

Expansion and infrastructure development are planned as Cortina is expected to host the 2021 Alpine Ski World Championships. As the lone candidate in the running, FIS should make it official at its next congress in Mexico this June.

"We can consider Cortina as part of the entire state of Italy," said Italian Winter Sports Federation (FISI) president Flavio Roda. "The world championships will be another important event for Cortina and sports in all of Italy."

"I cannot imagine the World Cup and maybe the world championships in Cortina without the Olympic Games," Colli said. "We must look to the future, but we cannot forget the past."

Written by Brian Pinelli

20 Years at #1: Your best source of news about the Olympics is AroundTheRings.com, for subscribersonly.