Hosting the 1956 Olympic Winter Games would transform the small mountain town of Cortina d’Ampezzo into one of the most celebrated ski resorts in the world and a sought-after venue for elite international sporting events. It would also have a significant impact on Italian winter sport, inspiring an entire generation of future skiing and skating champions.
The Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) oversaw the necessary building work, with financial support provided by the state. During the winter of 1952, a delegation of 12 “observers” was dispatched to Oslo to study all aspects related to organising the Games, such as the sporting programme, infrastructure and accommodation, among others.
Cortina’s accessibility was also greatly improved, the Italian government investing heavily in enhancements to the existing road and rail network, including the “Dolomites line” to Cortina that was originally laid in the 1920. The local power grid, phone lines and water supply were also expanded.
The 1956 Games would be noteworthy for the proximity of the competition sites, most of which were located a short distance from the town centre. Only the speed skating events, which took place 10km away on Lake Misurina, were any distance removed from Cortina itself.
The most prominent architectural achievement, constructed between 1952 and 1954, was the “Stadio Olimpico del Ghiaccio” (Olympic Ice Stadium), which would provide the stage for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, the figure skating competition and some of the ice hockey matches. Built on the banks of the river Boite on a narrow parcel of land, it was notable for the design of its stands, where the rows appeared stacked on top of each other. The arena could hold between 7,000 and 8,000 spectators, but could temporarily accommodate over 12,000 for the duration of the Winter Games. The ice rink at its centre was artificial, featuring an ammonia-based cooling system underneath.IOC
Facilities that had been built in the 1920s, such as the bobsleigh track that would later bear the name of future Olympic champion Eugenio Monti (ITA), were either completely renovated; others such as the Trampolino Olimpico Italia ski jump were destroyed and rebuilt. Seats were added to the “Stadio Della Neve” (Snow Stadium), which would house spectators for the cross-country skiing events, and a new venue, the Appolonio Stadium, was built to host the ice hockey tournament. The Alpine ski runs on Mount Faloria and Mount Tofania were plotted out and developed. Stands with an 8,000 capacity were erected around the speed skating track at Lake Misurina, while the « Stadio Oliimpico del Ghiaccio » would be site of the last ever open-air figure skating competition at the Olympic Winter Games.IOC