Tonight, the World will gather at BC Place Stadium or tune into their television sets as they watch the Opening Ceremonies from the host city, Vancouver, Canada. Seven years ago, on July 2, 2003, in the Czech Republic the IOC picked Vancouver over Salzburg, Berne, and PyeongChang to host the XXI Winter Olympics. The city is the largest one to host the Winter Olympics and also the first Olympic Games to have the Opening Ceremonies indoors. For the next two weeks, athletes from around the World will compete in 15 winter sports as millions of spectators will cheer the athletes from the stands and on the mountain sides. For the rest of us, we will be cheering from the comfort of our own homes watching the TV coverage.
This entry is a first in a series of postings for the next two weeks about the different histories of the Winter Olympics, some on specific events and athletes, local connections, and the future of the Winter Olympics. So, I would like to begin this series with a brief history on the origins of the Winter Games.
The Winter Olympics drew on the success of the Summer Olympics (formally referred to by Olympic historians as the Modern Olympics that was first held in 1896 or it could be called the Modern Olympiad). Organizers decided to broaden the sporting events and appeal to northern European countries by adding some, oddly enough, winter events at the Summer Games in London (1908) and Antwerp, Belgium (1920). Ice skating debut at the London Games and the first ice hockey tournament debut at the Antwerp Games.
After World War I, momentum began to emerge to have a separate winter sporting events, but IOC President Pierre de Coubertin denounced the idea believing that winter sports were for the wealthy class only and conducted at lavish resorts. However, the members of the IOC supported the idea for a separate winter sporting events and in 1924 voted for an experimental adjunct to the 1924 Paris Summer Games that would be called the International Week of Winter Sports, hosted by the city Chamonix, France. The events began on January 25, 1924 with 258 athletes from 16 nations who participated in figure skating, cross-country ski races, ski jumping, speed skating, hockey, four-man bobsled, and Nordic combined. A total of 1o,ooo spectators attended the International Week of Winter Sports and two years later, the IOC agreed to name it the first official Winter Olympic Games.
Through out Winter Olympic history, the United States has hosted four Winter Olympics beginning with the 3rd Winter Games that took place in Lake Placid, New York in 1932 and then again in 1980 hosting the 13th Games. The other two sites included Squaw Valley, CA who hosted the 8th Winter Games in 1960 and most recently, Salt Lake City, UT who hosted the 19th Winter Olympics. Will the United States ever host a Winter Olympic Games? Perhaps, but it will not be until 2022 that the USOC will consider another U.S. city to become a candidate city after failing to secure Chicago for the 2016 Summer Games. Finally, I hope everybody takes sometime out of their busy schedules and watch some of the coverage of the XXI Winter Olympics from Vancouver, Canada as new Olympic history unfolds.
Here is the complete list of cities that hosted the Olympic Winter Games.
I Winter Games-Chamonix, France
II Winter Games-St. Moritz, Switzerland
III Winter Games-Lake Placid, NY
IV Winter Games-Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
V Winter Games-St. Moritz, Switzerland
VI Winter Games-Oslo, Norway
VII Winter Games-Cortina d' Ampezzo, Italy
VIII Winter Games-Squaw Valley, CA
IX Winter Games-Innsbruck, Austria
X Winter Games-Grenoble, France
XI Winter Games-Sapporo, Japan
XII Winter Games-Innsbruck Austria (Denver, CO initially was awarded the Games but declined due to high costs)
XIII Winter Games-Lake Placid, NY
XIV Winter Games-Sarajevo, Yugoslavia
XV Winter Games-Calgary, Canada
XVI Winter Games-Alberville, France
XVII Winter Games-Lillehammer, Norway
XVIII Winter Games-Nagano, Japan
XIX Winter Games-Salt Lake City Utah
XX Winter Games-Torino, Italy
XXI Winter Games-Vancouver, Canada
XXII Winter Games-Sochi, Russia