By Mary Miller Cullins
The first Winter Olympics kicked off in the Alpine village of Chamonix, France on January 25, 1924.
Originally conceived as “International Sports Week,” the Chamonix games were held in association withe the 1924 Summer Olympics, held in Paris. The games attracted 258 athletes (247 men and 11 women) from 16 nations. They competed in a total of 18 events.
In the opening ceremonies, the athletes marched with their teams in a parade from Chamonix’s City Hall to the Olympic ice skating rink. Gaston Vidal, France’s under-secretary of state for physical education, declared the official opening of the games in front of 5,000 spectators. 150 athletes took to the ice for a celebration. Top skaters from the U.S., Canada, Norway, and Finland help an impromptu race around the rink, while a band played the national anthems of the participating nations.
Competition began the next day with the 500 meter skating event, won by American Charlie Jewtraw. However, Finland and Norway dominated the Games winning 28 of the 43 medals awarded. The U.S. and Great Britain won four medals each, and Canada won their only medal, a gold, in the ice hockey competition. They defeated the U.S. team in the finals by a score of of 6-1.
Probably the most interesting story to come out of the first Winter Games had to do with a ski-jumper. Norwegian born, American ski jumper Anders Haugen, captain of the U.S. Olympic team, came in fourth, but was awarded a bronze medal a full 50 years later, when a mathematical error was discovered that would have put him in third place.
The 2014 Winter Olympics, officially the XXII Olympic Winter Games, will be celebrated from February 7 to 23 , in Sochi, Russia, with some events held in the resort town of Krasnaya Polyana. Ninety-eight events in fifteen winter sports will be held. Both the Olympic and Paralympic Games are being organized by the Sochi Organizing Committee.