The 1964 Winter Olympics, officially known as the IX Olympic Winter Games (French: Les IXes Jeux olympiques d'hiver) (German: Olympische Winterspiele 1964), was a winter multi-sport event which was celebrated in Innsbruck, Austria, from January 29 to February 9, 1964. The Games included 1091 athletes from 36 nations, and the Olympic Torch was carried by Joseph Rieder, a former alpine skier who had participated in the 1956 Winter Olympics.
Normally snowy Innsbruck was threatened by a lack of snow. The Austrian army carved out 20,000 ice bricks from a mountain top and transported them to the bobsled and luge runs. They also carried 40,000 cubic meters of snow to the Alpine skiing courses. The army packed down the slopes by hand and foot.
Italian bobsleigh pilot Eugenio Monti distinguished himself by helping Britain's Tony Nash and Robin Dixon to win the gold medals when he loaned them an axle bolt to replace one that was broken. The Italians took bronze, but Monti was honored as the first recipient of the Pierre de Coubertin medal for sportsmanship.
In the 4 man bobsled, the Canadian team won the gold medal with a total winning time of 4:14.46.
Norway's Knut Johannesen won the men's 5,000m speed skating event in an Olympic record time of 7:38.40.
Klavdiya Boyarskikh of the USSR earned three gold medals in cross-country skiing and, on the men’s side, Finnish Eero Mäntyranta won two and earned the nickname "Mr. Seefeld" after the venue because of his domination.
Two tragedies prior to the 1964 Winter Olympics affected the outcome and mood of the Games:
Australian alpine skier Ross Milne and British luge slider Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypeski died during training shortly before the Games started. The organising committee said that Ross crashed into a tree during a training run. The IOC suggested that inexperience may have played a role in Ross's death, whereas Australian manager John Wagner suggested that overcrowding played a role, saying that he tried to slow down "on a spot which was not prepared for stopping or swinging" to avoid a crowd of contestants. His brother Malcolm Milne competed at the 1968 and 1972 Winter Olympics.
On February 15, 1961, the entire US Figure Skating team and several family members, coaches, and officials were killed when Sabena Flight 548 crashed in Brussels, Belgium en route to the World Championships in Prague. This tragedy sent the US skating program into a period of rebuilding. The loss of the U.S. team was considered so catastrophic for the sport that the 1961 World Championships were cancelled, and impacted later Winter Olympics.