Baptism of snow for the Olympic Games

On 25 January 1924, the first Olympic Winter Games opened with great fanfare in the French resort of Chamonix at the foot of the imposing Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps. Over 12 days, 258 athletes strove to outdo each other in speed and mastery on the snow and ice. From Chamonix 1924 to Turin 2006: 82 years and 20 editions of the Winter Games. Let’s take a look at how the cold season’s Olympic competitions got started.
Consecration for winter sports
In June 1921, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), meeting in Lausanne for its 20th Session, granted its patronage to the Winter Sports Week planned in Chamonix in 1924. This event would subsequently be renamed the “first Olympic Winter Games”. It showed the IOC’s desire to respond to the growth in winter sports, which were organised internationally by federations such as the International Skating Union (1892) or the International Ice Hockey League (1908). But did you know that, before Chamonix, figure skating and ice hockey had already made a first appearance at the Games, in 1908 in London for the former, and in Antwerp in 1920 for the latter?
In 1924, Paris hosted the Summer Games: Winter and Summer Games would then be held the same year until 1992 (Albertville and Barcelona). Since then, a two-year interval has separated them. The Summer Games and Winter Games continue to be held every four years.
A programme which has followed trends
The programme for the Games in Chamonix featured six sports divided into 16 events - biathlon, bobsleigh, curling, ice hockey, skating and skiing, compared with seven sports – luge being the seventh - and 84 events in Turin, in 2006. This increase in events, matching the development of winter sports, is explained by the arrival of new disciplines such as Alpine skiing in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in 1936. The latest addition to the programme is ski cross, for the 2010 Games in Vancouver

Ever-greater participation
From their first edition in Chamonix in 1924 to their 20th in Turin in 2006, the Winter Games have grown increasingly universal. Delegations from just 16 countries from Europe and North America were present in Chamonix, while the Piedmont capital welcomed 80 teams from all the continents! Athletes from Asia made their first appearance at the Olympic winter celebrations in 1928 in St Moritz; from Oceania in 1936 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen; and from Africa at the 1960 edition in Squaw Valley. 

The first Olympic winter champions
The sports equipment and techniques used by the athletes in Chamonix have today been relegated to the status of antiques, but those athletes' achievements have gone down in the history of the Games. The first Olympic male and female winter champions were both skaters: America’s Charles Jewtraw and Austria’s Herma Szabo-Plank. Other times, other performances: five time medallist in Chamonix, in the open air, Finn Clas Thunberg won the 1,500m speed skating in 2:20.80. In Turin, in the shelter of the Lingotto Oval and on “clap skates”, the winner of the same event, Italy’s Enrico Fabris, crossed the finish line in 1:45.97. 

Winter sports get their Olympic Games
At the Closing Ceremony of the Games in 1924, Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, expressed his satisfaction at seeing winter sports in Chamonix “take their place among Olympic events once and for all”.

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