The Winter Olympics: A Brief History

• Written by Katie

Even though it doesn’t receive as much fanfare as its summer counterpart, the Winter Olympics is still an impressive display of sporting achievement. Bringing in audiences and competitors from around the globe, this event spotlights the greatest athletes of snow and ice sports. It’s well known that the original Summer Olympics date back to Greek competitions as early as 800BCE. So where did the Winter Olympics originate?

The Nordic Games

Considered to be the predecessor to the Winter Olympics, the Nordic Games started in 1901. It was the first international winter multi-sports event. Originally established in Sweden by General Viktor Gustaf Balck, it was intended not only to promote winter sports, but also Swedish and Nordic culture. Throughout the years, events were held in Sweden, Norway, and Finland. Competition was limited to athletes from Nordic countries only.

Viktor Gustaf Balck was a member of the Olympic Committee at the time. He strived to include winters sports in the Olympic Games. His successes with the Nordic Games eventually convinced the committee to host a week of winter sports as part of the main Olympic Games.

When the Winter Olympics as we know it was established, the Nordic countries were initially opposed to it. However, its success could not be ignored. It wasn’t long before the Winter Olympics became the premiere winter sporting event.

The last ever Nordic Games was held in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1926.

The First Winter Olympics

It was a cold January in 1924 where at the foot of Mont Blanc in Chamonix, France, the first Winter Olympics got underway. Originally, it was named the “International Winter Sports Week”. Upon its roaring success, it officially became the first Winter Olympics.

Norway celebrated a victory with seventeen medals that year. Finland was a close second with eleven.

Though the original event took place on the same year as its summer counterpart, it was eventually decided that they should be split. The 1992 games in Albertville, France, was the last time the Summer and Winter Olympics took place in the same year.

What Are the Oldest Winter Olympics Sports?

Figure Skating

An elegant and well-respected sport, figure skating is all about beautiful movement on ice. It is technically the oldest Winter Olympic sport, having been previously featured in both the Summer Olympics of 1908 and 1920. It was then introduced as a mainstay in the first event of 1924 and has been a part of every event since.

Ice Hockey

Though it may seem like a modern sport, ice hockey was originally played as far back as the 1920 Summer Olympics. The game has appeared in every event to date.

Cross-Country Skiing

Introduced in the very first Winter Olympics, cross-country skiing is iconic to the games. Cross-country skiing is a long ski challenge that has competitors race over formidable distances. It is a test of stamina, speed, and strength. There has never been a year without this sport.

Ski Jumping

Land the farthest jump; that’s the goal of ski jumping. Competitors speed down a large slope onto a ramp and use numerous techniques to fly as far as they can. Like cross-country skiing, ski jumping has been a part of the event since the very beginning.

Nordic Combined

Mixing cross-country skiing and ski-jumping, the Nordic Combined is a test of a skier’s true ability. Since 1924, only the best have competed in this event.

Speed Skating

Also known as long track speed skating, this sport is a test of athlete’s stamina and speed. Competitors are timed while crossing a set distance as fast as they can. It has been a mainstay since 1924.


Even though curling was first played in the original Winter Olympics of 1924, it wasn’t a competitive event again for another 74 years. Being reintroduced in 1998, curling is a less intense sport that rewards patience and accuracy. Considered the most strategic game at the event, curling is a favourite among many.


Skeleton had its first event in 1928, but its next appearance wasn’t until twenty years later in 1948. After those games, it went on an even longer hiatus until it was eventually brought back in 2002. It has been in every Winter Olympics since.

In skeleton, racers lay face-down on a sled and hurtle down a frozen track. Their goal is to get to the bottom the fastest.

British Achievements in the Winter Olympics

Although Great Britain are not the most proficient when it comes to winter sports, the nation has still achieved some lofty feats during the Winter Olympics.

Great Britain has only placed in the top ten a handful of times. Our best position was sixth place in the original 1924 Winter Olympics. In total, we have achieved 11 gold medals throughout every Winter Olympics event. This places us at rank 19 out of 46 Olympic Committee nations.

When tallying all medals across every event, Great Britain impressively ranks second place in skeleton and third place in curling. Great Britain’s most successful Winter Olympics athlete is Lizzy Yarnold, who won two of Great Britain’s three gold medals in skeleton during the 2014 and 2018 games.

Which Country Will Host the 2026 Winter Olympics?

In 2026, Italy will host the next Winter Olympics. It will be hosted by twin cities: Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo. The start date will be the 6th of February, and it will end on the 22nd of February.

2026 will mark the twenty-fifth Winter Olympics and will be the fourth Olympic event hosted in Italy. It also coincides with the twenty-year anniversary since Italy last hosted the games.

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