Although the official film of the 1964 Innsbruck Olympics, IX Olympic Winter Games, Innsbruck 1964, presents ample footage of the competitions, what is most impressive is its portrayal of many of the non-athletes who make the Olympics possible. As the Games approached, it became clear that Innsbruck might not have enough snow to hold many of the events. The Austrian army was called into action, hauling snow down from the mountains and spreading it with spray devices, and carving ice blocks for the bobsleigh and luge runs (luge having been included in the Olympic program for the first time). When rain disrupted their handiwork, the soldiers packed down the snow by foot. These operations are shown in detail. We are also introduced to the IBM data center, as workers compile results and share them with the media and with spectators at the venues. We even witness the gathering of team officials when the draw is done for the skiing start placements.
One nice touch is the superimposition of the perfect line on the most difficult curve of the bobsleigh run as we watch various teams take the turn.
The narrator refers to slalom skiing as “a dance on an inclined plane.” Other literary flourishes do not come off quite so well. What did Terry McDermott of the United States, winner of the 500-meter speed skating event, do to deserve having the filmmakers evoke The Barber of Seville and call him “a speedy Figaro?”
Naturally we are treated to beauty shots of the Tyrol mountains and one local yodeling song. At the Olympic Village, some of the athletes dance the twist, while others play foosball.
Special credit is given to two stars of the Games, Lidiya Skoblikova of the Soviet Union, who won all four women’s speed skating events, and another Soviet athlete, Klavdiya Boyarskikh, who won all three women’s cross-country skiing events.
The dark side of the Innsbruck Games is left out of the story. During the week before the Opening Ceremony, two athletes were killed while training: Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypecki, a luger from Great Britain and Australian downhill skier Ross Milne.