According to Peter Bayer, the CEO of the Innsbruck 2012 Winter YOG, the city’s long Olympic tradition means that the Games hold a special place in the hearts of Innsbruck’s residents, who know first-hand about the benefits that hosting the Games can provide to a city.
“Everyone in Innsbruck loves the Olympic Games,” he explains.” People have been born with it in their DNA, so everyone knows about the positive experiences and the positive momentum that the Games can bring.
“For example, after the first Games in 1964, that was when tourism really started to develop in the city because people had seen and learned about Innsbruck during the Games.”
Following the success of the 1964 and 1976 Winter Games, many Innsbruck residents were excited to once again enjoy the Olympic experience in 2012.
“Everyone was enthusiastic about the YOG,” says Bayer. “We even had around 30 volunteers who had been there in 1964 and 1976, who wanted to come back and do it again for 2012 because they said that they’d had the time of their lives and wanted to be part of it again. That’s how the spirit developed in the city as a whole.”
The legacies of the 1964 and 1976 Winter Games also played a key role in shaping the 2012 Winter YOG, which made use of several pre-existing Olympic venues.
“We had 1964 and 1976 and then we were able to really build on the legacy from those two Games with the YOG,” says Bayer. We had one huge advantage, which was that we had nearly all the sporting venues already in place. The only temporary venue we had was the curling venues – all the other facilities were already there and had been regularly used since the Winter Games in 1964 and 1976. They had all been used for World Cups and World Championships, so we also had the people who knew how to run these major events – we didn’t have to bring in any external experts.”
Innsbruck 2012 also created its own legacy with the construction of the Youth Olympic Village, which has since provided affordable homes to families on low incomes.
“Today there are around 400 families living there,” says Bayer. “It wouldn’t have been built with the Youth Olympic Games. The land was supposed to be sold, but when we won the right to host the Games, the government awarded the land to the city of Innsbruck in order to build the village.”
Future generations in Innsbruck will also benefit from the establishment of a Nordic centre and a jumping hill in Seefeld, as well as a new ski-cross track and freestyle-course in Kühtai, which were all built for Innsbruck 2012.
“That whole area is now being used by our grassroots development programmes for young athletes in ski jumping, biathlon and Nordic combined,” says Bayer. “Kids are training there regularly and they have also held World Cup events. Seefeld is also applying to host the 2019 Nordic Combined World Championships. All the investment was made with a long-term vision behind it, which was also the case with the freestyle park in Kuhtai.”
With Innsbruck set to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Winter Games in February next year, Bayer believes the city’s Olympic spirit has never been stronger.
“By delivering the Games in the way we did, which was based on the history we already had, the whole Olympic spirit has not only been reawakened in Innsbruck, but also increased,” he says. “Now, lots of people would love to see the Winter Games return to Innsbruck again.”