The Winter Olympic Games

The Winter Olympic Games aren't as popular as the Summer Games but they're attracting more followers and athletes every year. Athletes from nearly 100 countries participated in the last edition.
The Winter Olympic Games

Last update: 17 December, 2019

Though not as popular as the Summer Games, the Winter Olympic Games attract millions of fans and athletes from all over the world. Learn everything you need to know about the Winter Olympics in our post today.

History of the Winter Olympic Games

The Winter Games may have a shorter history compared to the Summer Games, but this competition is gaining more and more popularity among winter sports fans.

The first edition took place in 1924 in Chamonix, France as a complement to the Summer Games. Since then, ice or snow sports have been able to complete in the ultimate showdown every four years.

In its beginnings, the Winter Games only included six sports. But new sports were added with each edition. The growing variety allowed more athletes and countries to participate.

Until 1992, both the Winter and Summer Games took place in the same year. Then officials decided to hold them on different cycles, separating them by two years. As a result, after the 1991 Olympic Games, the following Winter Games took place in 1994.  Since then, they have coincided with the World Cup.

An interesting fact is that only northern hemisphere countries have hosted the Winter Olympics to date: France, Switzerland, the United States, Germany, Japan, Russia, Canada, Austria, Norway, Italy, and South Korea.

Selecting the Winter Games sports

According to the Olympic Charter, a winter sport is a sport that takes place on ice or snow. That’s the first condition that sports must meet in order to be considered for the Olympics.

winter olympic games winter sports

But there are other rules. For example, sports have to have a presence in a minimum number of countries, have an international federation that serves as a base and follows international doping norms.

Since the beginning of the Winter Olympic Games, the number of modalities and events has only grown. The first edition only featured nine sports and athletes from 16 countries. But, the latest edition (Pyeongchang, South Korea 2018) had 108 events and nearly 3,000 athletes that represented 92 countries.

Current Winter Olympic Game sports

The current sports and events are:

  • Biathlon. Since 1960, biathlon has held five events: sprint, individual, pursuit, relay and mass start.
  • Slopestyle. Since 2014, freestyle skiing.
  • Bobsleigh. Between 1924 and 1956, resuming again in 1964 until the present time. There are two events: 2-man and 4-man.
  • Nordic combined. Since 1924 with three events: 10 km individual normal and large hill and team competitions.
  • Curling. Since 1924, divided into men’s and women’s events.
  • Freestyle skiing. Since 1992: moguls, aerials, and skicross.
  • Alpine skiing. Since 1936 with the following events: downhill, giant slalom, super-G and combined.
  • Cross-country skiing. Cross-country skiing has been in the Winter Games since the first edition. Currently, the events are individual and team sprint, 30 and 15 km double pursuit, 15 and 10 km classic, 50 and 30 km freestyle and 4×10 and 4×5  relays.
  • Ice hockey. Ice hockey has also been around since the start of the Winter Olympic Games. There are now men’s and women’s events.
  • Luge. Since 1964, individual and double.
  • Figure skating. Another original Winter Games sport. Figure skating can be individual, pairs or ice dancing pairs.
  • Speed skating. Since 1924. The events are 500 meters, 1,000 meters, 1,500 meters, 5,000 meters, 3,000 meters female, 10,000 meters male and team pursuit.
winter olympic games speed skating
  • Short track speed skating. Since 1992. Events include 500 meters, 1,000 meters, 1,500 meters, 3,000 meters women’s relay and 5,000 men’s relay.
  • Ski jumping. Since 1924, with normal or long hill, and teams.
  • Skeleton. Between 1924 and 1948; reintroduced in 2002. Men’s and Women’s events.
  • Snowboard. Since 1998 with four events: slalom, giant slalom, halfpipe, and snowboard cross.

In addition, others were featured as demonstration sports Winter Olympic Game editions such as bandy (which is similar to ice hockey), ice stock sport (a variation of curling), ski ballet, skijoring (skiing with a dog team), speed skiing, and winter pentathlon (which is cross-country skiing, shooting, downhill, fencing and horse riding).

Wrapping up, sports fans can’t miss the Winter Olympic Games. The sports events are entertaining, exciting and truly out-of-the-ordinary!

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.