Culture and Recreation


When were the first Winter Games held?

The Winter Olympic Games had a slow birth, making their first official appearance almost three decades after the first modern Games were held in Athens (1896). In 1901 Nordic Games were held in Sweden. However, only Scandinavian countries participated in the events, which organizers intended to hold every four years. The Nordic Games constituted the first organized international competition involving winter sports. Then, as part of the Summer Olympic Games in 1908, host-city London held a figure skating competition that October. Three years later, an Italian member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) encouraged Sweden, the next host of the Summer Games, to include winter sports in 1912 or hold a separate event for them. Since Sweden already played host to the Nordic Games, they declined to pursue the IOC suggestion. The sixth Olympiad was slated to be held in 1916 in Berlin, and Germany vowed to stage winter sports competition as part of the event. But in 1914 World War I began, and the Berlin Games were canceled altogether.

After an eight-year hiatus, the Olympics resumed in 1920: Antwerp, Belgium, played host to athletes, which included figure skaters and ice hockey players along with the usual contingency of gymnasts, runners, fencers, and other summer sports competitors. The first IOC-sanctioned competition of winter sports was held in Chamonix, France, from January 25 to February 4, 1924. When the Games were staged next, in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in 1928, they were formally designated the second Winter Olympics.

From that year, the Winter Games were held every four years in the same calendar year as the Summer Games—until 1994. In 1986 IOC officials voted to change the schedule. The result was that the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France, were followed only two years later by the Games in Lillehammer, Norway. The Winter and Summer Games are now each held every four years, alternating in even-numbered years.


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