BOB’S BLOG Olympic Memories, Innsbruck Jan. 29 –Feb. 9, 1964
It has been 50 years since the Innsbruck, Austria Olympics in 1964.
Those games were a breakthrough of sorts as for the first time events were held throughout the region, not just one location. This change pushed spectator attendance to over one-million spectators. The only problem was snow – there wasn’t any. The Austrian army was required to carve out huge bricks of the white stuff from the mountains and transport it to luge and bobsled runs and ski slopes.
Fifty-five Canadians competed in eight sports in Innsbruck – a far cry from the 200-plus Canucks who will contest 14 of 15 Olympic sports in Sochi this month.
The highlight for Canadians in these Austrian games was the victory of the Vic Emery team in the four-man bobsled event. This was a surprise, given that 50 years ago there was no bobsled facility in Canada. Emery, his brother John, Peter Kirby and Doug Anakin practised in a Montreal gym and apparently got in a few runs at the 1932 Olympic bobsled run in Lake Placid, NY.
Petra Burka captured bronze in women’s figure skating. Seventeen-year-old Burka was coached by her mother Ellen, who later went on to coach Toller Cranston and many others. Petra won the world championship the next year in Colorado.
The pairs team of Debbie Wilkes and Guy Revell took the bronze, then later was awarded silver when it was decided that the second-place finishers were professionals. That ruling was later reversed. Wilkes, who became a broadcaster, retired as a skater later that year at the age of 17.
Another controversy occurred in men’s hockey. Our amateur team finished fourth after the criteria for breaking ties in the standings was changed during the competition.
In 1976, the Winter Olympics came back to this west Austrian city when Denver withdrew as a host.
Bob Wood is a housing and poverty advocate and former two-term Burlington City Councillor who has built a bed-and-breakfast with his wife on Lake Erie.