Winter Games are 80 years old

Two events in Olympic history this year. Besides the Olympic Games returning to their country of origin on the occasion of the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad in Athens next August, 2004 also sees the celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Olympic Winter Games.

Chamonix 1924: First appearance by future diva Sonja Henie
From 25 January to 5 February 1924, the famous French skiing resort of Chamonix hosted the "International Winter Sports Week", which ended up being baptised as the first Olympic Winter Games. This first winter meeting was a success, with the participation of 258 athletes representing 16 countries. Among the 13 female athletes was the young Norwegian Sonja Henie, then aged 11, who went on to become the first famous face in the world of figure skating with 10 World Championship titles and three Olympic titles, before embarking on a Hollywood film career.

First medallist: Charles Jewtraw
Other highlights: the first medallist in the history of the Winter Games was American Charles Jewtraw, in the 500m speed skating competition; while the athlete winning the most medals was Finland's A. Clas Thunberg, who picked up five medals (three gold, one silver and one bronze) in the five speed skating disciplines.

Winters sports' debut at the Games
Winter sports were part of the Olympic programme well before Chamonix. In 1908 in London, the public had had the pleasant surprise of attending a figure skating event. In 1920 in Antwerp, an ice hockey tournament made an appearance. Then in 1921, the IOC Session authorised France, host for the Games of the VIII Olympiad in Paris in 1924, to organise a winter sports week in Chamonix. It was only in 1925 that the IOC Session decided to create the Olympic Winter Games the programme of which featured only snow and ice sports. A year later, in 1926, the Session recognised the Chamonix Winter Sports Week as the First Olympic Winter Games.

1994, alternation year
Until 1992, the Winter Games were organised in the same year as the Games of the Olympiad. The 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games marked the beginning of the two-year alternation between the Summer Games and the Winter Games.

From Chamonix 1924 to Turin 2006: An additional sport on the programme
In 1924 in Chamonix, six sports featured on the Olympic programme: bobsleigh, curling, ice hockey, skating, skiing and biathlon. From 10 to 26 February 2006 in Turin, an expected 2,550 athletes will compete in seven sports (biathlon, bobsleigh, curling, ice hockey, luge, skating and skiing) split into 82 events (43 for men, 36 for women and three mixed).

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