Olympic History: Nordic skiing has been practised in the Scandanavian countries since the 18th century, and competitions are known from the early 19th century. The sport has been on the Olympic program since the Chamonix games of 1924.
Nordic skiing consists of three major disciplines: cross-country skiing, ski jumping, and Nordic combined, combining elements of both cross-country and ski jumping. All three disciplines have been contested at all Winter Olympics. Women have competed only in cross-country skiing at the Olympic Winter Games and first began to do so in 1952, although that will change in 2014 with women competing in ski jumping.
Cross-country skiing consists of races varying from 10 to 50 kilometres for men, and from 5 to 30 kilometres for women, as well as relay races. The skiiers used to always race in time trial fashion, starting at intervals, but more mass start races have been added. For the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, 1,500 metre sprint cross-country skiing was added as an event for both men and women. At Torino in 2006, a two-person team sprint ski race was added for men and women.
In the 1980’s, cross-country skiing underwent a revolution that was started by Bill Koch, the first American to be a top international cross-country skiier. He changed from the classic cross-country style of alternating legs and arms with the stride being pushed straight backwards, remaining in the ski track, to a style similar to skating on skis, and using shorter skis. The FIS was urged to ban this style by the north Europeans, but it was decided instead to allow two styles. However, races are now designated as either “classic” or “freestyle,” with skating being allowed in freestyle races. In the relays, the first two legs are skiied classically while the final two legs are freestyle. Currently, the techniques allowed for each cross-country event alternate, with one style being used at one Olympic Winter Games, and the style reverting to the opposite at the next celebration.
A two-day combined pursuit event, one day classical and one day freestyle, was also contested for both men and women from 1992-2006, but this has been changed. The race now begins with a classical leg, followed by an immediate break, in which the skiiers change to freestyle skis, and then complete a freestyle leg. It is now called the skiathlon.
As of November 2013, there are 120 member nations affiliated to the FIS. This makes it the largest International Sporting Federation for any winter sport. The FIS governs what it terms six disciplines of skiing – alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, Nordic combined, freestyle skiing, and snowboarding. Cross-country, ski jumping, and Nordic combined are often termed one sport of Nordic skiing.
The 120 member nations of FIS are as follows: Albania, Algeria, American Samoa, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Cayman Islands, Chile, China, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, DPR Korea (North), Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Great Britain, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Marocco, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Palestine, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United States of America, Uruguay, US Virgin Islands, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.