The 1966 Winter Unviersiade had some big shoes to fill following the great success of Špindlerův Mlýn two years earlier, but the lofty expectations could hardly prevent Italy from organising a meet of world-class standards.
The northern Italian cities of Sestriere, Claviere and Turin had only one year to prepare for the hosting of the fourth Winter World University Games but rose to the occasion, staging an event of unrivalled quality at the time.
The Sestriere Unviersiade bested the three previous Games on several levels but in particular participation, attracting a total of 434 athletes from 29 countries. The 1966 Universiade was run like a well-oiled machine by CUSI (the Italian University Sports Association), the local organising committee, the military as well as the civic and sports authorities. Sestriere served as the venue for alpine skiing, Claviere the ski jumping and cross country, and Turin the ice hockey and figure skating.
France dominated the alpine skiing, with none other than the legendary Bob Wollek sweeping the men’s downhill, giant slalom and Nordic combined, while also securing silver in the super-G. Wollek would go on to compete at the 1968 Innsbruck Universiade before his skiing career was cut short by injury in the build-up to the Olympic Games. He would eventually switch gears and go on to have an even more successful career as a race car driver. “Brilliant Bob” tragically died at the age of 57 in 2001 in a road accident.
Sharing the limelight with Wollek in Sestriere was Annie Famose, who topped the podium in the women’s giant slalom and the super-G, adding a silver in the Nordic combined to follow up on her double in Špindlerův Mlýn. Ice hockey turned out to be a smash hit in its return to the Universiade (it was last on the programme in Villars in 1962), drawing teams from nine nations to an arena built specifically for the Games. The Soviets would do one better than their silver in Villars, beating Romania in the final. Czechoslovakia, which won the 1962 tournament, finished 3rd.
By the closing ceremony, Sestriere not only managed to sustain the momentum from Špindlerův Mlýn but also raised the bar for Innsbruck 1968.
Said Luigi Gui, the Italian Minister of Education at the time, “Results aside, from this great Italian meeting must spring a warm friendship among the world’s university students, as a prelude to more fertile understandings of higher ideals.”
29 Countries participating
434 Athletes participating