Host City: Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
Venue(s): Snow Stadium, Cortina d'Ampezzo
Date Started: February 4, 1956
Date Finished: February 4, 1956
The Soviets had the strongest team and were heavily favored, even if they had lost to Finland in the World Championship relay in 1954. The start began in brutally cold conditions – 18° C. (-1° F.). Fyodor Terentyev, seemingly fully recovered after the 50 km race only two days before, skiied one of the most impressive first legs in Olympic history, and had more than a 1½ minute lead over Finland’s August Kiuru at the first exchange. Norway's Håkon Brusveen was in third place, 13 seconds behind Finland. Austria was in a surprising fourth place, but their team dropped down to a final 11th place during the three remaining legs. Italy’s Pompeo Fattor gave hopes to the home crowd, coming in fifth, three seconds ahead of Sweden’s Lennart “Lill-Järven” Larsson. On the second leg, Pavel Kolchin widened the gap to their closest rival Finland to a decisive 2:46, and even if the Soviet skiers on the third and fourth leg, Nikolay Anikin and especially Vladimir Kuzin, had some trouble, the Soviet team won with a 1:01 margin over Finland, with Sweden another 1:10 behind, taking the bronze medal.
For Norway, favored for a medal, the second leg turned out to be a catastrophe. Per Olsen, a 23-year-old skier from the northernmost county in Norway and not used to the bright alpine sunshine, was snow-blinded and posted only the eighth best time for the leg, over 3½ minutes behind the Soviet runner, dropping Norway to fifth place, 5:24 behind the Soviets. Norway’s double Olympic champion Hallgeir Brenden overtook Italy’s Federico De Florian on the final leg and brought Norway in to a distant and disappointing fourth place, almost five minutes behind the winning Soviets. The Soviet relay medal was the first at the Olympics not won by a team from Finland, Sweden, or Norway.