Winter Olympic Games

A runner carries the Olympic torch
A runner carries the Olympic torch

The Winter Olympic Games, Winter Olympics for short but more correctly The Olympic Winter Games, are the cold-weather counterpart to the Summer Olympic Games. They feature winter sports held on ice or snow, such as ice skating and skiing.

The Winter Olympics are held every four years. Most recently, the 2002 Games were held in Salt Lake City, United States. The Italian city of Turin (Torino) will host the next Winter Olympics in 2006, and after that the games will be held in Vancouver, Canada in 2010.




When the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was established in 1894, one of the sports proposed for the programme was ice skating. However, no skating was conducted at the Olympics until the 1908 Summer Olympics in London, which featured four figure skating events. Ulrich Salchow (10-fold World champion) and Madge Syers (the first competitive woman figure skater) won the individual titles with ease.

Three years later, Italian count Eugenio Brunetta d'Usseaux proposed to the IOC to stage a week with winter sports as part of the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm. The organizers opposed this idea, wanting to promote the Nordic Games, a winter sports competition held every four years between competitors from the Nordic countries. However, this same idea was again proposed for the 1916 Games, which were to be held in Berlin. A winter sports week with speed skating, figure skating, ice hockey and nordic skiing was planned, but the 1916 Olympics were cancelled after the outbreak of World War I.

The first Olympics after the war, the 1920 Games in Antwerp again featured figure skating, while ice hockey made its Olympic debut. At the IOC Congress held the next year, it was decided that the organizers of the next Olympics (France) would also host a separate "International Winter Sports Week", under patronage of the IOC. This week proved a great success, and in 1925 the IOC decided to create separate Winter Olympic Games, not connected to the Summer Olympics. The 1924 events were retroactively designated as the first Winter Olympics at the 1926 IOC Session.

1924 Winter Olympics

The French town of Chamonix in the Haute-Savoie was the host of the first Olympic Winter Games. From January 25 to February 5, more than 200 athletes from 16 nations competed in 16 events. The first event on the programme was the 500 m speed skating, which was won by American Charlie Jewtraw, thereby becoming the first Winter Olympic champion.

Finnish and Norwegian athletes dominated the events. Finnish speed skater Clas Thunberg won three gold medals, while Norwegian Thorleif Haug also won three golds. He won both cross-country skiing events, as well as the nordic combined. Furthermore he placed third in the ski jumping contest, but 50 years later it was discovered that a counting error had been made and that the bronze should have been awarded to American Anders Haugen, who received it in a special ceremony at age 83.

The Canadian ice hockey team easily won the tournament. Represented by the Toronto Granites, the Canadians scored 110 goals in 6 games, while conceding only three.

1928 Winter Olympics

Sankt Moritz was appointed by the Swiss organizers to host the second Olympic Winter Games, held from February 11 to 19 in 1928. Curling and military patrol were no longer medal sports (although the latter was demonstrated) while skeleton made its first Olympic appearance. The American Heaton brothers won first and second place.

Clas Thunberg won two more Olympic gold medals, bringing his total to five. Johan Grøttumsbråten also won two golds, winning the 18 km cross-country and the nordic combined events. Gillis Grafström won his third consecutive figure skating title. His female counterpart was Norwegian Sonja Henie, only 15 years old at the time. It would turn out this was also the first of three titles for her.

Warm weather conditions plagued the Olympics on the fourth day. The 10000 m speed skating was abandoned in the 5th pair, and the 50 km cross-country ended with a temperature of 25 degrees above zero, forcing a third of the field to abandon competition.

1932 Winter Olympics

For the first time, the Winter Olympics came to North America. However, fewer athletes participated than in 1928, as the journey to Lake Placid, New York was a long and expensive one for most competitors, and there was little money for sports in the midst of the Great Depression. On top of that, these games too were marred by warm weather, which eventually made it necessary to extend them for two more days. The Games opened on February 4 and closed on February 15.

The two-man bobsleigh event was scheduled for the first time, while the speed skating events were conducted in mass start format, as was common in North America. This gave the American and Canadian skaters an advantage from which they benefited by winning all but two of the available skating medals. (Bernt Evensen from Norway won silver on the 500 m., and his fellow countryman Ivar Ballangrud did the same on the 10000 m.) Jack Shea and Irving Jaffee shared the gold between them, winning two gold medals each. There were three demonstration sports in Lake Placid: sled dog racing, curling and women's speed skating.

Swedish figure skater Gillis Grafström didn't manage to win his fourth straight Olympic gold, being defeated by Austria's Karl Schäfer. Sonja Henie (figure skating) and Billy Fiske (bobsleigh) successfully defended their titles. One of the members of Fiske's gold medal-winning sled was Eddie Eagan, who had been an Olympic champion in boxing in 1920. As of 2004, he is the only Olympian to have won gold medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympics.

1936 Winter Olympics

The Bavarian twin towns of Garmisch and Partenkirchen joined to organize the 1936 edition of the Winter Games, held from February 6 to 16. Alpine skiing made its Olympic debut in Germany, but skiing teachers were barred from entering, as they were considered to be professionals. This decision caused the Swiss and Austrian skiers to boycott the Olympics. The cross-country relay was also held for the first time, while the military patrol and ice stock sport were demonstration sports.

Norwegian Ivar Ballangrud dominated the speed skating events, winning three of them, and placing second in the fourth. His compatriot, Sonja Henie won her third straight title, and turned professional after the Games. Another Norwegian, Birger Ruud attempted a rare double, competing in both ski jumping and alpine skiing. He led the alpine combined event after the downhill, but dropped to fourth place in the slalom. He did win the ski jumping event, held one week later.

An upset occurred in the ice hockey tournament, where Canada was defeated for the first time, and lost the gold medal to Great Britain. However, most of the British players were born in, or lived in, Canada.

World War II

The Second World War interrupted the celebration of the Winter Olympics. The 1940 Winter Olympics had originally been awarded to Japan, and were supposed to be held in Sapporo, but Japan had to give the Games back in 1938, because of the Japanese invasion of China in the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945).

Sankt Moritz was chosen by the IOC to host the 1940 Winter Olympics, but three month later the IOC withdrew Sankt Moritz the Games again, because of quarrels with the Swiss organization team.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen stepped in to organize the Games again, but the Games were cancelled in November 1939, because Germany invaded Poland in September 1939.

The 1944 Winter Olympics, scheduled to take place in Cortina d'Ampezzo, were cancelled in Summer 1941.

1948 Winter Olympics

The Swiss town of Sankt-Moritz, untouched by the war because Switzerland remained neutral, became the first place to organize the Winter Olympics for the second time. Twenty-Eight countries competed in Switzerland from January 30 to February 8, although athletes from Germany and Japan were not invited.

Skeleton returned on the programme after 20 years. Remarkably, American John Heaton won the silver, as he had done in 1928. The sport disappeared again after the Sankt Moritz games, returning again in 2002. Four new alpine skiing events were also held, allowing Frenchman Henri Oreiller to win three medals, including golds in the downhill and the combined event. Swedish cross-country skier Martin Lundström also won two golds. A major upset occurred in the nordic combined. This event had been dominated by Norway, which had won all medals from 1924 to 1936. But the best Norwegian only placed 6th in 1948, and the title went to Heikki Hasu of Finland.

A strange incident occurred in ice hockey. Because of a dispute, two American ice hockey teams arrived in Sankt Moritz: one sanctioned by the American Olympic Committee (AOC), and one sanctioned by the American Hockey Association (AHA). The IOC voted to bar both teams from competing, but Swiss allowed the AHA team to compete anyway, while the AOC team marched in the opening ceremonies. After the IOC threatened to annul the entire competition, the AHA team was removed from the standings and lost its fourth position.

1952 Winter Olympics

In 1952, the Winter Games came to Norway, considered to be the birthplace of modern skiing. As a tribute, the Olympic Flame was lit in the fireplace of the home of skiing pioneer Sondre Nordheim. The programme in Oslo, from February 14 to 25, was expanded with the first ever cross-country event for women, while the alpine combination was replaced with the giant slalom. Bandy, a popular sport in the Nordic countries, was held as a demonstration sport.

Speed skater Hjalmar Andersen excited the home crowd by winning gold medals in three of the four speed skating events. Germany returned to the Olympic Games after 16 years, although only represented by West German athletes. German bobsledder Andreas Ostler steered his crews to two gold medals. His 4-man crew weighed a record 472 kg, while the international bobsleigh federation had just decided before the Games that the weight limit would be 400 kg in the future. Nineteen-year-old Andrea Mead Lawrence won two gold medals in alpine skiing, winning both the slalom and the giant slalom.

1956 Winter Olympics

After not being able to host the Games in 1944 due to the war, Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy was able to organize the 1956 Winter Olympics, held from January 26 to February 5. At the first Winter Games to be televised, the programme was extended with two events in cross-country skiing.

Most important development was the debut of the Soviet Union at the Winter Olympics. They immediately showed their potential by winning more medals than any other nation. In speed skating, Soviet skaters won three out of four events, with Yevgeni Grishin winning the 500 and 1500 m (the latter shared with compatriot Yuri Sergeyev). They ended Canada's dominance over the Olympic ice hockey tournament, and the first non-Nordic medallist in cross-country skiing was also a Russian.

Star of the Games, however, was Austrian skier Toni Sailer. He won all three alpine events, the first time this occurred in the Olympics. Cross-country skier Sixten Jernberg won four medals for Sweden, but only one gold medal.

1960 Winter Olympics

At the time the Olympics were awarded to Squaw Valley, a resort town created by Alexander Cushing, near Lake Tahoe in California. By 1960, this had changed, although there was no bobsleigh run. The organizing committee found it too expensive as only 9 nations would take part. There was a fear of lack of snow, but late snowfall prevented a disaster. The Games were held from February 18 to 28. While bobsleighing was absent, biathlon was first contested at the Olympics, and women first took part in speed skating.

Only two athletes managed to win more than one gold medal in Squaw Valley, both Soviet speed skaters. Yevgeni Grishin repeated his 1956 performance by winning both the 500 and 1500 m. Even more remarkable was that he again tied for the gold in the 1500, this time with Norwegian Roald Aas. Fellow Russian Lidia Skoblikova won the two longest distances in the inaugural women's races. She would add four more titles in 1964. The men's 10000 m saw Knut Johannesen glide to the gold in a time 46 seconds under the world record.

35-year-old Veikko Hakulinen of Finland won a complete set of medals in these Games, including a narrow win in the 4 x 10 km relay. A surprise occurred in ice hockey, where the home team surprisingly defeated the favoured Soviets, Canadians and Czechs.

1964 Winter Olympics

The Tyrolean city of Innsbruck was the host in 1964. Despite being a traditional winter sports resort, there was a lack of snow and ice during the Games, and the Austrian army was called in to bring snow and ice to the sport venues. Bobsleigh returned to the Olympics, while a new event was added to ski jumping and women's cross-country skiing. Luge was first contested in the Olympics, although the sport got bad publicity when a competitor was killed in a pre-Olympic training run.

Two Soviet athletes were very successful at these Games. Speed skater Lidia Skoblikova swept all four women's events, while her compatriot Klavdia Boyarskikh did the same in women's cross-country, winning three golds. Two other cross-country skiers, Eero Mäntyranta and Sixten Jernberg, took home two gold medals.

The French sisters Marielle and Christine Goitschel took the first two places in both the slalom and the giant slalom event, each sister winning once. Also remarkable was Eugenio Monti, who leant a spare part of his bobsleigh to British competitors Tony Nash and Robin Dixon, enabling them to win the gold medal in the 2-man event.

1968 Winter Olympics

Held in the French town of Grenoble, the 1968 Winter Olympics were the first Olympic Games in which East and West Germany participated as separate countries. Until 1964, they had competed in a combined German team. One new event was added for the Grenoble Games: the 4 x 10 km relay in biathlon. Another first in the Olympics were doping and sex tests.

Alpine skier Jean-Claude Killy lead the home team's good performances. By winning all three alpine events, he equalled Toni Sailer's 1956 performance. Killy's third gold medal was slightly controversial however, as Austrian Karl Schranz was disqualified. He had been allowed to re-ski his second run after he was interrupted by spectators. The jury later ruled Schranz had missed a gate before the interruption, and disqualified him as a winner. Another controversy arose in the women's luge. The East German women had finished first, second and fourth, but were subsequently disqualified for heating their sled's runners, which is illegal in lugeing.

Other successful athletes were Italian bobsleigh driver Eugenio Monti, who won both bobsleigh events after a long Olympic career, and Toini Gustafsson of Sweden, who won both individual events in cross-country, and added a silver with the Swedish relay team. Her male colleagues of Norway, Ole Ellefsæter and Harald Grønningen, also won two gold medals.

1972 Winter Olympics

The 1972 Winter Games were the first to be held outside North America or Europe. The Games in Sapporo, Japan, were surrounded by several professionalism issues. Three days before the Olympics, IOC president Avery Brundage threatened to bar a large number of top alpine skiers from competing because they did not comply with the amateurism rules. Eventually, only Austrian star Karl Schranz, who earned most of all skiers, was not allowed to compete. Also, the Canadian ice hockey team was absent, protesting the Eastern European "state amateurs", who, according to the Canadians, were in fact professionals.

Major stars of the Games were, without a doubt, Dutch speed skater Ard Schenk and Soviet cross-country skier Galina Kulakova. Schenk won three of the four skating events (falling in the 500 m), while Kulakova won all three events she entered. Switzerland's Marie Thérès Nadig and Vyacheslav Vedenin (USSR) both returned home with two Olympic gold medals.

Sapporo also brought several surprising winners. In ski jumping, Wojciech Fortuna from Poland won his country first gold medal, while the host nation performed a clean sweep of the other ski jumping event, also winning its first Olympic winter gold. In alpine skiing, Spaniard Francisco Fernández Ochoa was the surprise winner of the slalom event.

On a historical note, the 1972 Games were the last Olympic Winter Games where a skier would win the gold medal using all-wooden skis. After this, all top-level cross-country skiing would take place with the athletes using skis made mostly of fibreglass synthetics.

1976 Winter Olympics

Originally, the 1976 Winter Games had been awarded to Denver, but in a 1972 plebiscite, the city's inhabitants voted against organizing the Games. Innsbruck, which still had the venues of 1964 in good shape, was chosen in 1973 to replace Denver. Because it was the second time the Austrian town hosted the Games, two Olympic flames were lit. New events on the programme were ice dancing and the men's 1000 m in speed skating.

No athlete managed to win three gold medals, but a few came close. West German alpine skier Rosi Mittermaier won two gold medals, and came within 12 hundredths of a second of winning a third. Soviet cross-country skier Raisa Smetanina also won two golds and a silver, while her compatriot Tatyana Averina won two golds and two bronzes in speed skating.

East German bobsledders Nehmer and Germeshausen collected two gold medals, winning both the 2- and 4-man events. Russian biathlete Nikolay Kruglov also won two golds.

1980 Winter Olympics

The Olympic Winter Games returned to Lake Placid, which had earlier hosted the 1932 edition. The People's Republic of China made its debut at the Winter Olympics. Because of this, the Republic of China (Taiwan) was forced by the IOC to compete under the name of Chinese Taipei. The Taiwanese refused, and thus became the only nation to boycott the Olympic Winter Games. The threat of the American boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics was also clouding these Olympics, as the decision to do so fell during the Games.

Fortunately, there were also many sporting highlights. Nordic combiner Ulrich Wehling and figure skater Irina Rodnina both won their third consecutive gold medals in the same event, while biathlete Aleksander Tikhonov won his fourth one in the relay. Speed skater Eric Heiden equalled Lidia Skoblikova's achievement from 1964 by winning all speed skating events. However, where Skoblikova won four, Heiden won five gold medals, which made him the first to ever win five gold medals in individual events during a single Olympics (a record equalled by Vitaly Scherbo in the 1992 Summer Olympics).

In alpine skiing, Liechtenstein's Hanni Wenzel won two gold medals, as did Ingemar Stenmark from Sweden. For the Americans, however, the highlight of the Games was the Olympic ice hockey tournament. In a match later dubbed the "Miracle on Ice", the home team upset the favoured Soviet Union, and went on to win the title.

1984 Winter Olympics

Sarajevo was quite a surprising choice for the Winter Olympics, as no Yugoslavian athlete had ever won an Olympic medal in the Winter Games. This gap was filled by alpine skier Jure Franko, who won a silver medal in the giant slalom. There was only one new event at the Sarajevo Games, a 20 km cross-country event for women.

Finnish skier Marja-Liisa Hämäläinen took advantage of this new event, which allowed her to win three gold medals, winning all individual events. She added a bronze in the relay event. Other well scoring athletes were skaters Gaétan Boucher (Canada) and Karin Enke (East Germany), who both won two gold medals. Enke also won two silver medals in the other two women's speed skating events, which where completely dominated by East Germany, winning all gold and silver medals.

In figure skating, British ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean were popular with the audience and the jury, who gave them perfect scores for their free dance programme. East German figure skater Katarina Witt also won many hearts with her gold performance.

1988 Winter Olympics

The Canadian city of Calgary hosted the first Winter Olympics to span 16 days. New events had been added in alpine skiing, ski jumping and speed skating, while future Olympic sports curling, short track speed skating and freestyle skiing made their appearance as demonstration sports.

For the first time, the speed skating events were held indoor, on the Calgary Olympic Oval. Dutch skater Yvonne van Gennip beat the favoured East German, winning three gold medals and setting two new world records. Her total was equalled by Finnish ski jumper Matti Nykänen, who won all events in his sport.

Other stars of the Games include flamboyant Italian skier Alberto Tomba, East German figure skater Katarina Witt and Swedish cross-country skier Gunde Svan. Not all athletes making the headlines were winning medals: British ski jumper Eddie 'the Eagle' Edwards, who came in last, and the Jamaica's first ever bobsleigh team also received plenty of attention.

1992 Winter Olympics

The 1992 Games were held in the French Haute Savoie region; Albertville itself only hosted 18 events. Two new sports, short track speed skating and freestyle skiing were on the programme. Women's biathlon was also included for the first time. Curling, speed skiing and two freestyle skiing events were demonstrated.

Political changes of the time were reflected in the Olympic teams appearing in France. Germany competed as a single nation for the first time since the 1930s, and former Yugoslavian republics Croatia and Slovenia made their debut. The Soviet Union still competed as a single team, under the name of Unified Team, but the Baltic States made independent appearances, for the first time since World War II.

Norway won all cross-country events for men, with Bjørn Dæhlie and Vegard Ulvang each winning three gold medals. Several athletes won two gold medals, such as Petra Kronberger (skiing), Bonnie Blair, Gunda Niemann (both speed skating) and Kim Ki-Hoon (short track). Finnish ski jumper Toni Nieminen made history by becoming the youngest male Winter Olympic champion. New Zealand skier Annelise Coburger made history with a silver medal in the women's slalom, becoming the first Winter Olympic medallist from the Southern Hemisphere.

1994 Winter Olympics

In 1986, the IOC decided to stop holding the Summer Games and Winter Games in the same year. The Lillehammer Games were the first Winter Olympics to be held in a different year. The winter sports-minded Norwegians organized the Olympics extremely well, and many still consider them to be the best organized to date. The event programme was again extended, adding two new events each in freestyle skiing and short track speed skating. After the split-up of Czechoslovakia in 1993, the Czech Republic and Slovakia made their Olympic debut in Lillehammer, as did several former Soviet republics.

Johann Olav Koss emulated Hjalmar Andersen's achievement of 1952, winning speed skating's three longest distances for his home audience - Koss set a new world record in each of the distances as well. Italian cross-country skier Manuela di Centa won five medals out of five events, including two gold medals; Lyubov Yegorova won three gold medals in the same sport. US speed skater Bonnie Blair won the fourth and fifth gold medal of her career, including the third straight gold in the 500 m, while Canadian biathlete Myriam Bédard won both individual events in her sport.

A lot of media attention, especially in the United States, went to the women's figure skating competition. American skater Nancy Kerrigan had been injured some months before the Games in an assault planned by the ex-husband of opponent Tonya Harding. Both skaters competed in the Games, but neither of them won the gold medal, which went to Oksana Baiul, who won Ukraine's first Olympic title.

1998 Winter Olympics

For the first time, more than 2000 winter athletes competed in the Winter Olympics, Japan's second Winter Olympics, held in the city of Nagano. Two new sports were conducted - snowboarding and curling - while women's ice hockey was also included.

The men's ice hockey tournament was open to all players for the first time, making Canada and the United States favourites for the gold with their many NHL professionals. However, neither nation medalled and the Czech Republic captured the gold instead. Speed skating saw a wave of new world records thanks to the use of the revolutionary clap skate; Dutch skaters Gianni Romme and Marianne Timmer both won two golds. Bjørn Dæhlie won three gold medals, bringing his all-time total to 12 medals, including 8 golds. The Russian women swept the cross-country events, with Larisa Lazutina winning three titles. German luger Georg Hackl won his third straight singles title, while Austria's Hermann Maier won two gold medals in alpine skiing, after a spectacular fall in the downhill event.

Snowboarding's introduction into the Olympics did not come without a scandal, as gold medallist Ross Rebagliati (Canada) was initially disqualified for cannabis use, but his disqualification was overturned later.

2002 Winter Olympics

The 19th Olympic Winter Games were held in Salt Lake City, Utah. Prior to the opening of the Games, it was found that Salt Lake organizers had bribed several IOC members in order to be elected. This resulted in a change of the host city election procedures and several IOC members resigned or were punished. Again, the programme was expanded. Skeleton made its return on the Olympic podium after 54 years, while new events were added in biathlon, bobsleigh, cross-country skiing, nordic combined and short track speed skating.

The Salt Lake City Olympics had many stars. Ole Einar Bjørndalen won all four biathlon events, while Samppa Lajunen took all three nordic combined medals. Croatia's Janica Kostelić won four medals in alpine skiing, of which three gold. Simon Ammann won both individual ski jumping events, while Georg Hackl won his fifth consecutive medal in the same event (luge singles), a feat never before achieved by any Olympian. In speed skating, the high altitude of the skating rink assured several new world records. Jochem Uytdehaage broke three world records, winning two golds and a silver; Claudia Pechstein won the 5000 m for the third time in a row, while also winning the 3000 m. Canadians jubilated as both their men's and their women's hockey teams defeated the United States to win the gold; the men's team thus ended a medal drought that had lasted 50 years to the day.

The men's 1000 m short track speed skating event saw one of the unlikeliest results in sports history. Australian Steven Bradbury, who would have been eliminated in the quarterfinals but for the disqualification of Marc Gagnon, advanced to the final when the four other competitors in his semifinal collided on the final lap. In the final, Bradbury was fifth going into the final lap, when another collision left him the last man standing. Bradbury was able to avoid the pileup, becoming the first Winter Olympic gold medallist from the Southern Hemisphere. Many Australians saw this as a painfully humorous example of the country's struggle for competitiveness in winter sports, being that it took for all other competitors to crash for an Aussie to win.

A major scandal evolved around the pair figure skating contest. Canadians Jamie Salé and David Pelletier initially placed second. However, it was decided that a French jury member had favoured the winning Russian pair, and the IOC and the International Skating Union decided to award both pairs the gold medal, after much discussion. Combined with several other referee decisions that came out negatively for Russian athletes, there was a brief threat by the Russians of withdrawing from the Games.

Cross-country skiers accounted for a second scandal, as Johann Muehlegg (Spain) and Olga Danilova and Larissa Lazutina (both Russia), who had already medalled in earlier events, where shown to have used doping. As of 2004 they had all been officially stripped of all medals won at the 2002 Games.

Future Olympics

The Italian city of Turin (Torino) will host the 2006 Winter Olympics. It will be the second time Italy hosts the Winter Olympic Games, after Cortina d'Ampezzo in 1956. In a 2003 IOC vote, the 2010 Winter Olympics were awarded to Vancouver, allowing Canada to host its second Winter Olympics as well. The host city for 2014 will be chosen in July 2007 in Guatemala City.


Games overview

Year Host city Country Held Nations Participants Events
1924 Chamonix France January 25 - February 5 16 292 18
1928 St. Moritz Switzerland February 11 - February 19 25 464 14
1932 Lake Placid United States February 4 - February 15 17 252 14
1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Germany February 6 -February 16 28 668 17
1948 St. Moritz Switzerland January 30 - February 8 28 669 22
1952 Oslo Norway February 14 - February 25 30 694 22
1956 Cortina d'Ampezzo Italy January 26 - February 5 32 820 24
1960 Squaw Valley United States February 18-February 28 30 665 27
1964 Innsbruck Austria January 29-February 9 36 1091 34
1968 Grenoble France February 6-February 18 37 1158 35
1972 Sapporo Japan February 3-February 13 35 1006 35
1976 Innsbruck Austria February 4-February 15 37 1123 37
1980 Lake Placid United States February 13-February 24 37 1072 38
1984 Sarajevo Yugoslavia February 8-February 19 49 1274 39
1988 Calgary Canada February 13-February 28 57 1423 46
1992 Albertville France February 8-February 23 64 1801 57
1994 Lillehammer Norway February 12-February 27 67 1739 61
1998 Nagano Japan February 7-February 22 72 2302 68
2002 Salt Lake City United States February 8-February 24 77 2399 78
2006 Torino Italy February 10-February 26
2010 Vancouver Canada February 12-February 28

All-time Winter Olympic medal table

Rank Country Gold Silver Bronze All Medals
1 Norway 96 90 75 261
2 Soviet Union (1956-1988) 78 57 59 194
3 United States 69 71 51 191
4 Germany (1928-1936, 1992-) 54 51 38 143
5 Austria 42 57 63 162
6 Finland 41 52 49 142
7 East Germany (1952-1988) 39 36 35 110
8 Sweden 36 28 40 104
9 Switzerland 32 33 37 102
10 Italy 31 31 28 90
11 Canada 31 28 36 95
12 Russia (since 1994)25 18 11 54
13 Netherlands 22 28 19 69
14 France 22 22 28 72
15 West Germany (1952-1988) 14 17 15 46
16 South Korea 11 5 4 20
17 Unified Team (1992) 9 6 8 23
18 Japan 8 10 13 31
19 Great Britain 7 2 10 19
20 Croatia 3 1 0 4
21 China 2 12 8 22
22 Czechoslovakia (until 1992) 2 8 15 25
23 Czech Republic (since 1994) 2 3 1 6
24 Liechtenstein 2 2 5 9
25 Australia 2 0 2 4
26 Poland 1 2 3 6
27 Kazakhstan 1 2 2 5
28 Belgium 1 1 3 5
Bulgaria 1 1 3 5
30 Estonia 1 1 1 3
= Ukraine 1 1 1 3
32 Spain 1 0 1 2
33 Uzbekistan 1 00 1
34 Yugoslavia 0 3 1 4
35 Hungary 0 2 4 6
36 Belarus 0 2 3 5
37 Luxembourg 0 2 0 2
38 North Korea 0 1 1 2
39 Denmark 0 1 0 1
New Zealand 0 1 0 1
41 Slovenia 0 0 4 4
42 Romania 0 0 1 1
Total688 688 678 2054

Adding the tallies for East and West Germany between 1952 and 1988 together, Germany has 107 Gold, 104 Silver, 88 Bronze and a total of 299 medals.

See also: All-time_Summer_Olympic_medals

Top ten athletes

Name Nat. Sport Years Gold Silver Bronze
Bjrn Dhlie NOR Cross-country skiing 1992–1998 8 4 0
Lyubov Yegorova RUS Cross-country skiing 1992–1994 6 3 0
Lidia Skoblikova URS Speed skating 1960–1964 6 0 0
Larissa Lazutina RUS Cross-country skiing 1992–2002 5 1 1
Clas Thunberg FIN Speed skating 1924–1928 5 1 1
Ole Einar Bjrndalen NOR Biathlon 1998–2002 5 1 0
Bonnie Blair USA Speed skating 1984–1994 5 0 0
Eric Heiden USA Speed skating 1980 5 0 0
Raissa Smetanina URS Cross-country skiing 1976–1992 4 5 1
Sixten Jrnberg SWE Cross-country skiing 1956–1964 4 3 2


Through the years, the number of sports and events conducted at the Winter Olympic Games has increased. In this section, we give an overview of all sports and events that are currently on the programme, or have been in the past. So- called demonstration sports, in which contests were held but for which no medals were awarded, are also discussed.

Current sports

  • Alpine skiing was first included in 1936. It would not have been conducted in 1940 due to professionalism disputes, but it was on the programme again in 1948. The current programme features 10 events, with both men and women skiing the downhill, super g, giant slalom, slalom and combined events.
  • Biathlon was first included in 1960, although the very similar military patrol was contested in 1924. Only a single individual event for men was included in 1960, but events have been added over the years. Women first participated in 1992. At present there are 4 events, conducted by both men and women: the sprint (10 km (men)/7.5 km (women)), the individual (20 km (men)/15 km (women)), the pursuit (12.5 km (men)/10 km (women)) and the relay (4 x 7.5 km). A mass start event will be added in 2006 (15 km (men)/12.5 km (women)).
  • Bobsleighing has been included since 1924, although it was not held in 1960. The four-man event has been held since 1924, the two-man event was added in 1932. Women didn't compete until 2002, when the two-woman race was included.
  • Cross-country skiing has always been on the Olympic programme. The number of events has steadily grown over the years, being 12 in 2002: sprint (1.5 km), pursuit (10 km for men, 5 km for women), mass start (30 km (men)/15 km (women)), 10 km (women), 15 km (men), 30 km (women), 50 km (men), relay (4 x 10 km (men), 4 x 5 km (women)).
  • Curling was on the programme in 1924, but disappeared afterwards. It was demonstrated in 1932, 1988 and 1992, to be officially included in 1998. Since then, separate tournaments for men and women have been held.
  • Figure skating was the first winter sport to be included in the Olympics, appearing in the programme of the Summer Olympics in 1908 and 1920. The single events for men and women, and the pairs contest have been on the programme since 1908, ice dancing was first included in 1976. The special figures event for men was only conducted in 1908.
  • Freestyle skiing was first demonstrated in three disciplines in 1988. The moguls event become Olympic in 1992, while ballet and aerials remained a demonstration event. The aerials also received official status in 1994. Both events are held for men and women.
  • Ice hockey was already held at the 1920 Summer Olympics, and has been played in every celebration of the Winter Games. A women's tournament was first conducted in 1998.
  • Luge first entered the Olympic programme in 1964, and the three events conducted then are still unchanged. It included a singles event for both men and women, and a doubles event. The latter is technically open for both men and women, but in practice, only men compete.
  • Nordic combined, a combination of ski jumping and cross-country skiing, has been Olympic since 1924. Until 1988, when a team event was added, there was only an individual event. A third event, the sprint, made its debut in 2002. Only men compete in this sport.
  • Short track speed skating was a demonstration sport in 1988, and was included as a full sport four years later. The programme was expanded from 4 in 1992 to 8 in 2002. The events are the same for both men and women: 500 m, 1000 m, 1500 m and the relay (5000 m (men)/3000 m (women)).
  • Skeleton was included in both Olympics held in Sankt Moritz, the birthplace of the sport. It was not held again until it was included again in 2002, with individual events for both men and women.
  • Ski jumping has been an Olympic sport since 1924, with the normal hill event contested. A second event (large hill) was introduced in 1964, and a team event followed in 1988. This sport is only contested by men.
  • Snowboarding was first contested at the 1998 Olympics, with giant slalom and halfpipe events for both sexes. The giant slalom was replaced by a parallel giant slalom for 2002, and in 2006 the snowboard cross event will be added.
  • Speed skating has been on the programme since 1924. Women's events were not included until 1960, although they were demonstrated in 1932 and had been on the preliminary programme for 1940. Current events are the 500 m, 1000 m, 1500 m, 3000 m (women only), 5000 m and 10000 m (men only). The all-round competition was only contested in 1924. The team pursuit event will make its debut in 2006.

Discontinued sports

  • Military patrol, a precursor to the biathlon, was a medal sport in 1924. It was also demonstrated in 1928, 1936 and 1948, and in 1960 biathlon became an official sport.

Demonstration sports

  • Bandy, a sport briefly described as "ice hockey with a ball", very popular in the Nordic countries, was demonstrated in 1952.
  • Ice stock sport, a German variant to curling, was demonstrated in 1936 and 1964.
  • Skijöring, skiing behind horses, was a demonstration sport in Sankt Moritz 1928.
  • Sled-dog racing contests were displayed in Lake Placid 1932.
  • Speed skiing was demonstrated in 1992.
  • Winter pentathlon, a variant to the modern pentathlon, was included as a demonstration event in 1948.

See also


  • Volker Kluge, Olympische Winterspiele - Die Chronik
  • David Wallechinsky, The Complete Book of the Winter Olympics

External links

da:Vinter-OL de:Olympische Winterspiele el:Χειμερινοί Ολυμπιακοί Αγώνες fr:Jeux Olympiques d'hiver he:משחקי החורף האולימפיים ko:동계올림픽 id:Olimpiade musim dingin it:Olimpiadi invernali nl:Olympische Winterspelen ja:冬季オリンピック no:Olympiske vinterleker pl:Zimowe Igrzyska Olimpijskie pt:Jogos Olmpicos de Inverno zh-cn:冬季奥林匹克运动会


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