Winter Olympics: A Sports Tradition Since 1924

Poster for the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)
Poster for the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

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On this date in 1924, the first Winter Olympics opened in Chamonix, France.

Here are some things you may not have known about the Winter Olympics.

The first Winter Olympics weren’t originally considered Olympics at all. Bowing to pressure from winter sports federations, the International Olympic Committee decided to hold what they called an “International Winter Sports Week” in association with the Summer Olympics that would be held in Paris later that year.

The winter sports week was actually 11 days and drew 250 athletes from 16 nations, competing in 16 events.

The first Winter Olympic gold medal was won by Charles Jewtraw of the United States in 500-meter speedskating.

Two traditional Winter Olympic sports had previously been held during the Summer Olympics. Figure skating was contested in the 1908 Olympics in London and the 1920 Games in Antwerp. Ice Hockey was also contested in Antwerp. This led to skater Gillis Grafstrom of Sweden and the Canadian hockey team defending Summer Olympic medals at the following Winter Olympics.

Norway and Finland tied for the most gold medals with four. Norway earned the most overall medals with 17. A total of 10 nations earned at least one medal with the United States finishing with one gold, two silvers and one bronze.

Germany was banned from competing in 1924 as a result of World War I.

In 1925, the IOC decided to create a separate Winter Olympics and the 1924 games were retroactively designated as the first Winter Olympics.

The next Winter Olympics were held in 1928 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. The Winter Games were held every four years until 1992, except 1940 and 1944, which were canceled due to World War II. Starting in 1994, the Winter Olympics were rescheduled to occur in alternating even-numbered years opposite the Summer Olympics.

The next Winter Olympics will be held in 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Our question: What was the site of the first Winter Olympics held outside of Europe?

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