VII Olympic Winter Games Held in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
The 1956 Winter Olympics, officially known as the VII Olympic Winter Games, was a winter multi-sport event which was celebrated in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.
The Games were held from January 26–February 5, 1956. Cortina, which had originally been awarded the 1944 Winter Olympics, beat out three other cities for the right to host the 1956 Games. The Cortina Games were unique for several reasons: all of the venues except one were within walking distance of each other, the Games were the first to rely heavily on corporate sponsorship for funding, and these were the first televised Winter Olympics.
A total of 32 nations participated in the Games, which was more than any Winter Olympics until that time. The largest nation making its Winter Olympics debut was the Soviet Union. The Soviets would go on to win more medals than any other nation at these Games. Politics did not impact the 1956 Winter Games as it did the Summer Games in Melbourne, Australia, when the Soviet response to the Hungarian uprising and the Suez War caused many nations to boycott the Games.
The Cold War began after the allied victory in World War II. The Soviet Union continued its efforts to come out of international isolation by participating in the Winter Games. Until 1952, many of the Communist countries of Eastern Europe would participate in Worker's Olympics or Spartakiads. The Soviets competed in their first Olympics in 1952 when the Summer Olympics were held in Helsinki, Finland. The Olympic Movement was affected significantly by the Soviet suppression of the in the fall of 1956. The Cortina Games were held before the Hungarian uprising, and the Suez War, which occurred in the fall of 1956. They escaped the turmoil that plagued the Melbourne Olympics of November and December of that year. The participation of the Soviet Union at the Olympics raised the level of competition. The Soviets dominated the speed skating events, winning three out of the four possible gold medals. They also upset perennial Ice Hockey power Canada.
The program for the 1956 Games included the 4 sports and 22 events from the 1952 Olympics in Oslo as well as two new events. The additions were the men's 30-kilometer cross-country ski race and the women's 3x5 kilometer cross-country relay race. The Soviet Union requested the inclusion of a women's speed skating event but this was rejected by the IOC at the 49th Congress in Athens in 1954.
A total of 32 nations sent athletes to Cortina d'Ampezzo. Along with the Soviet Union, Bolivia, and Iran competed at the Winter Games for the first time. Korea, Liechtenstein, and Turkey returned after having missed the 1952 Winter Olympics. Argentina, Denmark, New Zealand, and Portugal did not compete at these Games, after having participated in 1952. Athletes from West Germany (FRG) and East Germany (GDR) competed together as the United Team of Germany at these Games, an arrangement that would continue for the following two Olympiads.