What is the History Behind the Winter Olympic Games?

The Nordic Games were the first iteration of winter Olympic games. Viktor Gustaf Balck first organized the Nordic Games in Sweden in 1901. This international mult-sport event that was designated specifically for winter sports was thereafter held regularly until 1926. In the meantime, Balck was rallying to have winter sports (starting with figure skating) included in the Olympic sport roster. He was unsuccessful until 1908, when four figure skating events were included in the 1908 Summer Olympics in London.

When planning the next summer Olympics (to be held in 1912), an Italian count named Eugenio Brunetto d’Usseaux beseeched the International Olympic Committee to plan a week of winter sports as part of the 1912 games. The idea was not welcomed warmly, for a couple different reasons. First, the committee did not want to detract from the Nordic Games. Second, the committee was concerned about the lack of facilities for other winter sports.

More ground was gained in 1916, when the idea to include a week of winter sports was again proposed. The committee went as far as to plan the week of winter sports including figure skating, speed skating, ice hockey and Nordic skiing. Unfortunately, the 1916 games in Berlin were cancelled due to World War I.

Figure skating and ice hockey were featured in the first Olympic games after the war, held in Antwerp in 1920. Shortly thereafter the International Olympic Committee decided that the organizers of the next Olympics (to be held in 1924) would also host an International Winter Sports Week. The first Winter Sports Week took place in Chamonix in 1924 and actually lasted 11 days. The event was a huge success, drawing more than 200 athletes from 16 competing nations. In the first Winter Sports Week, women only competed in figure skating events.

In 1925, the International Olympic Committee created a separate event designated for these types of sports. The event was called the Olympic Winter Games, and at the same time, the 1924 Winter Sports Week in Chamonix was retroactively designated as the official first Winter Olympics. The second Olympic Winter Games were held in St. Moritz in February of 1928. The next Winter Olympic Games were held in North America for the first time. The location of the event was Lake Placid, New York. The turnout at the 1932 Winter Olympics was not impressive, however, partly due to the financial stress of the Great Depression. 1936 was the last year in which both summer and winter Olympics were held in the same country. Both the 1940 and the 1944 Winter Olympics were cancelled as a result of World War II. The 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy were the first to be televised.

The next Winter Olympics Games scheduled are to take place in 2010 in Vancouver, B.C. Below is a list of scheduled medal events:

– Alpine skiing
– Biathlon
– Bobsled
– Cross-country skiing
– Curling
– Figure skating
– Freestyle skiing
– Ice hockey
– Luge
– Nordic combined
– Short track speed skating
– Skeleton
– Ski jumping
– Snowboarding
– Speed skating

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