St. Moritz – where winter fairy tales come true
St. Moritz is said to be the birthplace of Alpine winter tourism and today is one of the world's top wintersports destinations. Not least because of the numerous wintersports world championships that regularly take place here. And St. Moritz is hosting the FIS Alpine World Ski Championship for the fifth time from 6 to 19 February 2017. This success story is based on two legendary Winter Olympics that took place in the up-and-coming community in 1928 and 1948.
The whole world in St. Moritz
Shortly before the start of the Depression, St. Moritz made history in 1928 as the first place to hold the independent Winter Olympics, the first Games not held together with the Summer Olympics. No expense was spared for the event: with great enthusiasm, the citizens of Engadin built legendary sporting venues such as the Olympic ski jump, which was still regularly hosting international competitions until 2006, and the Olympic Stadium, the main building of which is now the home of furniture designer Rolf Sachs. The locals also had a few trump cards up their sleeves with the existing infrastructure – for example the famous Olympia Bob Run built in 1904 which is the proud holder of four world records: it is the longest, fastest and oldest bobsleigh run in the world and at the same time the only one worldwide to be made of natural ice. The natural ice Cresta Run tobogganing track, built in 1885, is also unique in every respect: it is right next to the Olympia Bob Run and is the world's only track on which Cresta sport, very similar to skeleton, is practised. And it was also these spectacular wintersports venues that attracted almost 40,000 spectators to St. Moritz from 11 to 19 February 1928, when around 464 athletes from 25 countries took part in the spectacular competitions. Asia was represented for the very first time, with Japan taking part, and German sports personalities were also allowed to take part in the Olympic Games for the first time since World War I.
Symbol of peace
After the dark period of the Second World War, the 1948 Winter Olympic Games were the first major event worldwide after a break of twelve years. The public event was a shimmer of hope and was referred to as the "symbol of peace the world is expecting" by the then Swiss President Enrico Celio in his opening speech. The interest was great all over the world and the significance of the Games for St. Moritz was equally great. The classy spa town was now finally able to establish itself as a wintersports destination. 878 sportsmen and women came from 28 countries to compete in six sports and 22 disciplines. Over 60,000 spectators journeyed to the spa town and 570 journalists from 38 countries reported on the Winter Games in Switzerland.
An Oscar for St. Moritz
The number of participants and spectators was effectively unmanageable without the railway. The Rhaetian Railway played a key role at the Winter Olympics: the company organised extra coaches and connecting trains, created a precise order of travel, planned transfers and printed new timetables. Today too – in god time for preparations for the FIS Alpine World Ski Championship 2017 – RhB is playing an active role in the renovation of the station in St. Moritz. After successfully hosting the Winter Olympics twice and after various competitions and championships, the economy in St. Moritz was very definitely on the road to success. The extra momentum was particularly noticeable in the infrastructure sector: new roads and paths were built, the telephone network was extended, the skiing areas made more accessible. These were all perfect prerequisites for the upswing in tourism the spa town experienced and is still enjoying today: since the Winter Olympics, the wintersports location and various hotels have won numerous awards and prizes – including the Oscar of tourism, the World Travel Award 2007, for the best skiing destination in the world.