The First Winter Olympics Opened In Chamonix, France, 93 Years Ago

Bottom of the Bobsled run
Photo: dailymail

When the first Winter Olympics kicked off in Chamonix, France on January 25th, 1924, it was quite different than the games we see today. There were only five different sports and a total of sixteen events. The sports included curling, ice hockey, bobsleigh, ice skating, and nordic skiing. The skiing and skating had a few disciplines within each such as speed skating and cross-country skiing. However, the the most popular event was a toss up between the bobsled races and the ski jump.

At the time of the games, they weren’t known as the Winter Olympics. Actually, it was marketed as the “International Winter Sports Week.” However due to the overwhelming popularity of the games from the sixteen nations involved led to the Olympic Committee officially deeming them the Winter Games in 1928. Not surprisingly, the medal count was dominated by the Nordic countries such as Norway, Sweden, and Finland. When the events came to a close on February 5th, it was Norway that put on a dominating performance with a total of 17 medals, including all but one of the nine skiing medals available. The United States was in attendance, however, they only managed to reach the fifth spot in the overall medal count with only one gold medal won by speedskater Charles Jewtraw. They did come incredibly close to beating Canada in the ice hockey gold medal game, but the Canucks came out victorious in the end.

The U.S. and Canada gold medal game.
Photo: vintage

The current Winter Olympics are held two years after the Summer Olympics so essentially we as the public have the pleasure of watching the worldwide athletic competition every two years. But for these first set of games, it was designed to take place the same year as the Summer games. It would remain that way for almost 70 years until 1992 when it was switched to the current format. The reasoning for the switch is unknown, but if I had to guess it was because nobody wanted to wait four whole years between each game. It was also most likely a logistical nightmare trying to coordinate both events in the same year, especially as they grew in size and popularity.