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11 November 2019 | in Winter FISU World University Games

Spotlight: Špindlerův Mlýn hosts Winter Universiade 1964

Take a trip back through 60 years of Universiade history. The sixth stop on the FISU history tour takes us to the Bohemia region mountain resort of Špindlerův Mlýn for the Winter Universiade 1964.


Few Winter Universiades in the history of the university sports movement have been more successful than the one held in 1964 in the Czechoslovakian resort of Špindlerův Mlýn.


Banking on its extensive experience hosting world-class sporting events, the Špindlerův Mlýn 1964 Winter Universiade was not only organised by the book but also intensely competitive, with many of the athletes coming directly from the Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria, which had wrapped up only 10 days earlier. The short turnaround and proximity to the Winter Olympic host city created a win-win situation for both organisers and participants, making Špindlerův Mlýn an easy sell and cost effective for athletes to attend.


The third Winter Universiade featured 290 athletes from 21 countries, including West Germany, which topped the medal standings over the Soviet Union just as it did two years earlier in Villars, Switzerland. The athletes took part in five disciplines: Alpine skiing, Nordic combined, cross-country skiing, ski jumping and figure skating, which officially joined the programme after being a demonstration sport in Villars.


Other than a slight snow shortage at the start of the Games, the Špindlerův Mlýn Universiade faced virtually no organisational issues. It was reported that the atmosphere was friendlier with a greater sense of sportsmanship than at the Innsbruck Olympics, where the chase for glory at times soiled what ought to have been a festive mood.


Some of Europe’s best skiers hit the slopes at Winter Universiade 1964. West Germany’s Fritz Wagnerberger swept the slalom and downhill, and Frenchwoman Annie Famose also did the double, winning the downhill and super giant slalom. In the lone gold medal for the host nation, Czech Karol Divin won the inaugural men’s figure skating event, while Miwa Fukuhara of Japan topped the women’s side.

 Scenes from the Opening Ceremonies from the Špindlerův Mlýn 1964 Winter Universiade

The 1964 Universiade garnered unseen media attention for a university meet, drawing almost 100 journalists from 13 countries to cover the six-day event.


When the local organisers passed the torch to Sestriere, Italy, for the 4th Winter Universiade, it felt like more of a “see you later” than a “goodbye” to the Games. Špindlerův Mlýn was such a success that the Universiade would happily make its way back to the Czech resort only 14 years later for the 9th Winter edition in 1978.

The official event poster from Špindlerův Mlýn for the Winter Universiade 1964