An unpublished collection of 47th vintage postcards of Cortina and surroundings, from the 20's to the 50's .
Chapter 20 - 1956 Winter Olympics - The event
Over the preparation years, the bowl became a huge building site. The few building contractors (A. Ghedina, Zambaldi, Scrocco, Negro) were compelled to increase the number of workmen and, since they were not able to satisfy the growing demand, some builders from Belluno, Bolzano, and Treviso were summoned. Renovation works at Hotel de la Poste were completed in the last days of 1955, on the Games' eve. Preparation works would come along frantically even in nearby villages. The frenzy had affected everybody: from those in charge of sports facilities, to ski teachers, to workers in charge of grooming the ski runs (snow-grooming machines did not exist yet), to small shop keepers and street vendors alike. Cortina's photographers joined together to better satisfy the demands of the thousands of visitors who were likely to invade the valley. Well famous singers and orchestras Peppino di Capri, Fred Buscaglione, Marino Barreto, and others - had been playing in the hotels since the seasons preceding the event. Hotels employed people from other areas. The National Ski-school, the oldest and most prestigious in Italy, made all its teachers and structures available free. The accident ward, Codivilla, increased its staff by moving doctors and nurses from the Rizzoli hospital of Bologna. Two private clinics were created: Cademai Salus and Clinica Crignes, the latter was built on a terrain granted by the Municipality. From the records of the Tourist Bureau, we learn that over 60 hotels and inns opened for the 1955-56 winter season, with accommodation for nearly 4,000. As many were available in private houses. Such an offer had never been recorded before. A short time had elapsed since the conflict which, too close to the first world war, had once more required the sacrifices of a whole generation. In the meanwhile, Italian economy was hardly taking off and migration waves towards Switzerland, Australia, South America and Canada were impoverishing mountain valleys. Yet, the mirage of the Olympic Games raised hopes; it would bring plenty of tourists and prosperity. The press, particularly the local one like the "Gazzettino", insisted that thousands of curious onlookers would attend the first Italian Olympics. These numbers would add to the usual winter visitors. Communal and Italian authorities, which were to see to the reception, were panic-stricken. Dreadful, inextricable traffic jams were expected in case of snowfalls. To avoid traffic problems, the transit on the Alemagna road was blocked at Dogana Vecchia to the south and at the Fiames locality, to the north. Admittance was allowed only to service vehicles, provided with passes. Actually Cortina could be reached only by the small railway of the Dolomites which did its best to carry as many as 7,000 passengers a day. I.O.C. President Avery Brundage, in his opening speech, pronounced these words: "The seventh winter Olympic Games were awarded to Cortina d'Ampezzo six years ago. Since then, the Organizing Committee have been doing all the necessary preparation works to welcome the athletes and accommodate the visitors who will pour into the valley from all over the world. No expense has been spared." The show was perfect. The Olympic flame left Rome, with the Pope's blessing, and ascended Italy between lines of enthusiastic people who crowded to greet it in as much a frenzy as perhaps only the Giro d'Italia could arise. The Army had made available plenty of vehicles and men. Since snowfalls had been rather poor and snow-making systems did not exist yet, the alpine troops were fundamental to take the snow, even dozens of kilometres far, and carry it by truck or on their backs to the slopes. For the first time in the sports history, a woman, Giuliana Minuzzo, read Olympia's oath. Remarkable competitive athletes wrote heroic pages, the media reported enthusiastically about the event; last, but not least, the beauty of the mountains completed the scenario. TV broadcasts aired the images of the Ampezzo bowl, shining bright as a pearl, throughout the world. Among the most famous guests: an extremely beautiful Sophia Loren, Raf Vallone unusually acting as sports journalist and TV presenter Mike Bongiorno.