Grenoble 1968: 50 years later, still a source of inspiration
Fifty years on from the Closing Ceremony, Grenoble celebrates the legacy of the Olympic Winter Games 1968, which transformed the city into a regional capital and helped develop winter sports in France.
Earlier this month, some 500 youth athletes from 19 countries participated in the 1st Schools Winter Games, not only marking the anniversary of Grenoble 1968, but also walking in the footsteps of all of those who made the Olympic Winter Games happen in the city 50 years ago.
The event’s opening ceremony took place at the Palais du Sport, the venue built as the Stade de Glace to host figure skating and ice hockey at the 1968 Games.
Grenoble also received major investments in urban infrastructure, and several districts were completely renovated or even built from scratch. The highway link with Geneva served as a catalyst for the regional economy and contributed to transforming the city into a major conference and university centre.
The Olympic Village was subsequently used as an 800-room university hall, a 300-room hostel for young workers and a tower block with 52 apartments.
The Grenoble Games were the first Olympic Winter Games to be broadcast in colour, accelerating the conversion of public broadcaster ORTF’s network and equipment to colour television.
Then, by hosting the 1st Schools Winter Games, the city was part of another breakthrough moment in broadcasting, with the skiing slalom event being aired live on the Olympic Channel, the new multi-platform destination of the Olympic Games.
And though the French already had household names in Alpine skiing like Jean-Claude Killy, who won three gold medals in 1968 and returned to the city this month to celebrate them, it was at Grenoble 1968 that their interest in cross country skiing and biathlon sparked. One of the best representations of this development, Olympic champion Martin Fourcade, was the ambassador for the Schools Winter Games.
And when the 500 students who competed at the event saw Fourcade become a third-time Olympic champion at PyeongChang 2018 last Monday, 12 February, they learned a very reassuring lesson: a story that starts in Grenoble can take you to Olympic gold in the other side of the world.