Written By: Liz Ronk

Much has changed about the Olympics since 1964. Only 38 countries participated back then, compared to 92 at the 2018 in South Korea. The country that was the big medal winner in the 1964 Games, the USSR, has long since been broken up. Snowboarding and other more modern sports that highlight today’s Games had yet to be added to the competition.

And yet — some elemental things about the Olympics remain the same. Here, in photos made by LIFE’s Ralph Crane, George Silk and Paul Schutzer, we see the same intensity in the athlete’s faces, the same striving for excellence, that we see every four years in both the summer and winter Olympiads. We see the same spirit of togetherness that seems to win out—however briefly—over the constant drumbeat of nationalism. In short, we see many of the same familiar, comforting scenes that greet us every time the Olympics, however modernized, roll around. And maybe that’s why, in the end, we like the Games so much: because in the midst of all the drama about who will win what event, and by what margin, so much about the Games remains the same.

1964 Winter Olympics

A ski jumper soared at the 1964 Winter Olympics

Ralph Crane/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Opening ceremonies at the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Olympics.

At the opening ceremonies for the Innsbruck Games, before 55,000 onlookers, athletes took the Olympic oath in the arena below the ski jump.

Ralph Crane/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Opening ceremonies at the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Olympics.

Opening ceremonies at the 1964 Winter Olympics, Innsbruck, Austria.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Opening ceremonies at the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Olympics.

Opening ceremonies at the 1964 Winter Olympics, Innsbruck, Austria.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Austrian alpine skier Josl Rieder stands on stair having just lit the Olympic flame at the opening ceremonies of the 1964 Winter Olympics.

Austrian alpine skier Josl Rieder lit the Olympic flame during the opening ceremonies of the 1964 Winter Olympics, Innsbruck, Austria.

Ralph Crane/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Scene from the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Olympics.

A scene from the 1964 Winter Olympics, Innsbruck, Austria.

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Cars parked at the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Olympics.

A parking lot at the 1964 Winter Olympics, Innsbruck, Austria.

Ralph Crane/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Figure skaters at the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Olympics.

Figure skaters at the 1964 Winter Olympics, Innsbruck, Austria.

Ralph Crane/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Scene from the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Olympics.

The 1964 Winter Olympics at Innsbruck, Austria.

Ralph Crane/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Scene from the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Olympics.

1964 Winter Olympics, Innsbruck, Austria.

Ralph Crane/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Happy fans and autograph-seekers at the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Olympics.

Happy fans and autograph-seekers at the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.

Paul Schutzer/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Medal ceremony, 1964 Innsbruck Winter Olympics.

Medal ceremony, 1964 Winter Olympics, Innsbruck, Austria.

Ralph Crane/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Scene from the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Olympics.

1964 Winter Olympics at Innsbruck, Austria.

Ralph Crane/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

American skiers at the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Olympics, including medalists Jean Suabert (front row, center), James Heuga (front, far left) and Bill Kidd (front, far right).

A team photo of American skiers at the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Olympics, including medalists Jean Saubert (front row, center), Jimmie Heuga (front, far left) and Billy Kidd (front, far right).

George Silk/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

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