The Modern Olympic Games
The Winter Games sports
Winter sports made their Olympic debut at … the Summer Games in London (UK) in 1908! Figure skating competitions were organised for men, women and pairs. The experience was repeated at the Antwerp Games in 1920, along with an ice hockey tournament.
In Chamonix in 1924, the winter sports finally had their own Games. Six sports were on the programme: bobsleigh, curling, ice hockey, skating, Nordic skiing (cross-country) and the military patrol race.
The number of sports at the Winter Games has remained relatively stable over the years. However, the number of events has increased considerably. At the Salt Lake City Games in 2002, there were seven sports – biathlon, bobsleigh, curling, ice hockey, luge, skating and skiing – and a total of 78 events on the programme!
HOW TO BECOME A WINTER OLYMPIC SPORT These days, a winter sport must be widely practised in at least 25 countries and on three continents in order to be included on the programme. No distinction is made between men and women’s events.
THE THREE STAR SPORTS ON THE PROGRAMME The three major attractions on the Winter Games programme are ice hockey, skating and skiing.
Ice hockey, like skating and skiing, is one of the sports that helped to launch the Olympic Winter Games. Hockey is very popular and has very high audience levels.
Skating has the longest Olympic history, having figured on the programme of the London Games in 1908. Women made their debut in figure skating at the Olympic Winter Games, but speed skating was not open to them until 1960. Today, skating events take place indoors, but during the first Olympic Games skating rinks were in the open air.
Skiing is the sport with the largest number of events. Cross-country skiing is the oldest discipline and snowboarding is the newest arrival (1998 Games in Nagano, Japan). Alpine skiing appeared relatively late : it was on the pro- gramme of the 1936 Games, but it was not until the 1948 Games in St Moritz (Switzerland) that a more complete programme for men and women was organised.
IN THE PAST – DEMONSTRATION SPORTS There are many variations of snow and ice sports. Several have been included in the Olympic Games as demonstration sports (e.g. skijoring, bandy and winter pen- tathlon). Other sports were absent from the official programme for several editions of the Games but appeared as demonstration sports during this time (e.g. curling, which eventually became an Olympic sport in Nagano in 1998).