St Moritz Games prove a resounding success
The first St Moritz Games proved to be a huge success and, given the problems caused by the fluctuating weather, were remarkably well organised.
As the organisers’ official report noted: “Despite the inclement weather of the first few days and the occasional complaint, the St Moritz Olympic Games was an entirely successful sporting event that will be remembered as a glorious chapter in the annals of modern Olympism and which will do justice to the sporting reputation of our country.
“The results of the competition have been reported and commented upon by the world’s press, while the Games in general have seen governments, sporting bodies and young sportsmen and women all over the world focus their attention on the town of St Moritz, the canton of Les Grisons and our country.”
The report continued: “The people who have had the privilege of attending these Games will have lasting memories of them and will, without doubt, wish to return to Switzerland and the Engadin Valley, where the warmest of welcomes will always be extended to them.
“The second Olympic Winter Games have proved to be a major success of which the Swiss Olympic Committee, the town of St Moritz and the people of Switzerland in general can take pride. The influence of these Games will be felt for a long time in our country.”
St Moritz 1928 saw a number of firsts, with France winning their maiden Olympic Winter Games title courtesy of Pierre Brunet and Andrée Joly in the pairs skating, and Czechoslovak and German athletes stepping onto the Winter Games podium for the first time.
Norwegian cross-country skier Johan Grøttumsbråten and Finnish speed skater Clas Thunberg were the only athletes to win two golds, while Norway’s Bernt Evensen was the most prolific medallist, climbing on to three podiums out of three in the speed skating events.
Also making a name for themselves were the USA’s Jennison Heaton, who medalled in two events (gold in tobogganing and silver in bobsleigh), and Norwegian figure skater Sonja Henie and American bobsleigher Billy Fiske, who became the youngest ever Olympic champions at the respective ages of 15 and 16.
In its official report, published two months after Games, in April 1928, the International Olympic Committee commented: “The IOC has every reason to congratulate itself on the manner in which the first part of the Games of the IX Olympiad have unfolded, with the programme being completed despite the warm weather conditions, which were not forecast by meteorologists. On being consulted by the Organising Committee, and basing their opinion on statistics from the last 25 years, they were unanimously agreed that the second week of February offered the most guarantees in terms of the weather.
“Only two changes had to be made to the programme by the international federations: the International Skating Union cancelled the 10,000 metres speed skating competition, and the International Bobsleigh Federation reduced the bobsleigh competition from four legs to two, with the starting order running from No1 to 25 for the first leg and from No25 to 1 for the second. Cordiality and courtesy were the order of the day at all the competitions and the appeal panels were only required to deliberate on matters of very little importance, with all appeals ultimately being turned down. The military patrol and skijoring events also generated a great deal of interest, and the Swiss Olympic Committee can be proud of how the Games were organised.”