The Winter Olympics

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

The move toward a winter version of the Olympics began in 1908 when figure skating made an appearance at the Summer Games in London. Ten-time world champion Ulrich Salchow of Sweden, who originated the backwards, one revolution jump that bears his name, and Madge Syers of Britain were the first singles champions. Germans Anna Hubler and Heinrich Berger won the pairs competition.

Organizers of the 1916 Summer Games in Berlin planned to introduce a “Skiing Olympia,” featuring nordic events in the Black Forest, but the Games were cancelled after the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

The Games resumed in 1920 at Antwerp, Belgium, where figure skating returned and ice hockey was added as a medal event. Sweden's Gillis Grafstrom and Magda Julin took individual honors, while Ludovika and Walter Jakobsson were the top pair. In hockey, Canada won the gold medal with the United States second and Czechoslovakia third.

Despite the objections of Modern Olympics' founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin and the resistance of the Scandinavian countries, which had staged their own Nordic championships every four or five years from 1901-26 in Sweden, the International Olympic Committee sanctioned an “International Winter Sports Week” at Chamonix, France, in 1924. The 11-day event, which included nordic skiing, speed skating, figure skating, ice hockey and bobsledding, was a huge success and was retroactively called the first Olympic Winter Games.

Seventy years after those first cold weather Games, the 17th edition of the Winter Olympics took place in Lillehammer, Norway, in 1994. The event ended the four-year Olympic cycle of staging both Winter and Summer Games in the same year and began a new schedule that calls for the two Games to alternate every two years.

Year No Location Dates Nations Most medals USA medals
1924 I Chamonix, FRA Jan. 25-Feb. 4 16 Norway (4-7-6–17) 1-2-1– 4 (3rd)
1928 II St. Moritz, SWI Feb. 11-19 25 Norway (6-4-5–15) 2-2-2– 6 (2nd)
1932 III Lake Placid, USA Feb. 4-15 17 USA (6-4-2–12) 6-4-2–12 (1st)
1936 IV Garmisch-Partenkirchen, GER Feb. 6-16 28 Norway (7-5-3–15) 1-0-3– 4 (T-5th)
1940-a Sapporo, JPN Cancelled (WWII)    
1944 Cortina d'Ampezzo, ITA Cancelled (WWII)    
1948 V St. Moritz, SWI Jan. 30-Feb. 8 28 Norway (4-3-3–10), 3-4-2– 9 (4th)
     Sweden (4-3-3–10)  
     & Switzerland (3-4-3–10)  
1952-b VI Oslo, NOR Feb. 14-25 30 Norway (7-3-6–16) 4-6-1–11 (2nd)
1956-c VII Cortina d'Ampezzo, ITA Jan. 26-Feb. 5 32 USSR (7-3-6–16) 2-3-2– 7 (T-4th)
1960 VIII Squaw Valley, USA Feb. 18-28 30 USSR (7-5-9–21) 3-4-3–10 (2nd)
1964 IX Innsbruck, AUT Jan. 29-Feb. 9 36 USSR (11-8-6–25) 1-2-3– 6 (7th)
1968-d X Grenoble, FRA Feb. 6-18 37 Norway (6-6-2–14) 1-5-1– 7 (T-7th)
1972 XI Sapporo, JPN Feb. 3-13 35 USSR (8-5-3–16) 3-2-3– 8 (6th)
1976-e XII Innsbruck, AUT Feb. 4-15 37 USSR (13-6-8–27) 3-3-4–10 (T-3rd)
1980 XIII Lake Placid, USA Feb. 14-23 37 E. Germany (9-7-7–23) 6-4-2–12 (3rd)
1984 XIV Sarajevo, YUG Feb. 7-19 49 USSR (6-10-9–25) 4-4-0– 8 (T-5th)
1988 XV Calgary, CAN Feb. 13-28 57 USSR (11-9-9–29) 2-1-3– 6 (T-8th)
1992-f XVI Albertville, FRA Feb. 8-23 63 Germany (10-10-6–26) 5-4-2–11 (6th)
1994-g XVII Lillehammer, NOR Feb. 12-27 67 Norway (10-11-5–26) 6-5-2–13 (T-5th)
1998 XVIII Nagano, JPN Feb. 7-22 72 Germany (12-9-8–29) 6-3-4–13 (5th)
2002 XIX Salt Lake City, USA Feb. 8-24 78 Germany (12-16-7–35)10-13-11–34 (2nd)
2006XXTurin, ITAFeb. 10-26   
2010XXIVancouver, CANFeb. 12-28   
a–The 1940 Winter Games are originally scheduled for Sapporo, but Japan resigns as host in 1937 when the Sino-Japanese war breaks out. St. Moritz is the next choice, but the Swiss feel that ski instructors should not be considered professionals and the IOC withdraws its offer. Finally, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is asked to serve again as host, but the Germans invade Poland in 1939 and the Games are eventually cancelled.
b–Germany and Japan are allowed to rejoin the Olympic community for the first time since World War II. Though a divided country, the Germans send a joint East-West team through 1964.
c–The Soviet Union (USSR) participates in its first Winter Olympics and takes home the most medals, including the gold medal in ice hockey.
d–East Germany and West Germany officially send separate teams for the first time and will continue to do so through 1988.
e–The IOC grants the 1976 Winter Games to Denver in May 1970, but in 1972 Colorado voters reject a $5 million bond issue to finance the undertaking. Denver immediately withdraws as host and the IOC selects Innsbruck, the site of the 1964 Games, to take over.
f–Germany sends a single team after East and West German reunification in 1990 and the USSR competes as the Unified Team after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
g–The IOC moves the Winter Games' four-year cycle ahead two years in order to separate them from the Summer Games and alternate Olympics every two years.
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