Olympic Games, Winter

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A multi-sport event for winter sports, held every four years under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The first Winter Games was held in Chamonix, France, in 1924, with fourteen events and just sixteen participating nations. Some figure skating events had been held in London in 1908, but international competition in winter sports had been mostly organized within the Swedish Nordic Games, held each four years from 1901. Separate Winter Olympics were lobbied for within the IOC during the early 1920s, and an ‘International Sports Week’ organized for Chamonix, which was retrospectively recognized as the inaugural Winter Olympics. The first sixteen Games shared the year of their staging with the Summer Olympics, but, to spread the events across the media schedules and to give more sustained exposure to sponsors, the Winter Games were moved on to a different cycle from 1994 (Lillehammer, Norway) onwards. Scandinavian and Alpine countries, along with the former Soviet Union, the USA, and Germany, have headed national medal tables. The post-unification Germany headed the table at both Albertville, France, in 1992, and Torino, Italy, in 2006. At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, seven main sports were to be contested: skiing (with the six specialist disciplines of snowboard, ski jumping, Alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, Nordic combined, and cross-country skiing); skating (figure skating, speed skating, and short-track speed skating); bobsleigh (skeleton and bobsleigh); biathlon; curling; ice hockey; and luge. The Torino Games had 2,508 athletes competing from 80 National Olympic Committees, with 9,408 media in attendance. The organizing body, torino2006.org, reported 700 million page views on its internet site. Although criticized by environmentalists, and smaller in scale and less globally representative than its Summer counterpart, the Winter Olympics continues to attract bidding cities: its mix of modernity (the introduction of snowboard in 2006) and glamour and thrill (the beauty and excitement of the visual coverage of most of its events) ensures its persisting prominence in the international sporting calendar. See also Henie, Sonja; ice skating.

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