Opening Ceremony tonite. Always a big moment. And it always happens on Friday night, with the Games then extending for 2 full weeks and 3 weekends, so that NBC and the other television networks get plenty of weekend coverage, right?
Not quite. In fact, at the Winter Olympics, it has only been the last 4 Games – 2002-2014 – which have followed this seemingly standard calendar. One other Winter Olympics started on Friday and ended on Sunday, that being in 1948 at St. Moritz, but the Winter Games lasted only one week back then, with far fewer events.
The Sochi Olympics actually started yesterday, with events in freestyle skiing, figure skating, and snowboarding. That is not that unusual, as we detailed in a post yesterday (http://olympstats.com/2014/02/06/events-starting-before-the-opening-ceremony/). But these Games will then last from 6 February to their conclusion on 23 February, which will be 18 days of Winter Olympics, and that makes Sochi 2014 the longest ever Olympic Winter Games.
It may seem that the Winter Olympics always take place exclusively in February and that is basically now correct, since its been true since 1968. But it was not always so. The first Winter Olympics started on 25 January 1924 in Chamonix, France. The other Winter Games to start in January were 1948, starting 30 January; 1956, starting 26 January; and 1964, which began on 27 January.
No Winter Olympics will ever start that early again, as the IOC and US television networks do not want to go up against the Super Bowl, and with the NFL poised to extend their season to 18, perhaps 20, maybe 26 games per year, we can look to Winter Olympics starting later and later.
No Winter Olympics has ever ended in March, but if the Super Bowl keeps getting pushed back, that may happen someday (or perhaps the Qatar World Cup could also do it). Three Winter Olympics have ended on 28 February, all North American Games – 1960 Squaw Valley, 1988 Calgary, and 2010 Vancouver.
Olympic Winter Games Opening Ceremonies have been held on all days of the week except Sunday and Monday, with only the 1968 Grenoble Olympics starting on Tuesday. Thursday and Friday have seen 6 Winter Olympic Openings, with 5 held on Saturday, and 4 on Wednesday.
The same is not the case for the Closing Ceremonies. Olympic Winter Games almost always end on Sunday, and, in fact, the last time this did not happen was 1952 in Oslo, which ended on Monday. The only other times a Winter Games did not end on Sunday was 1924, which ended on Tuesday, and 1932, which officially ended on Saturday. However, in 1932 the final 4-man bobsled runs took place on Monday, 2 days after the Closing Ceremony, because a snowstorm had forced postponement of that event several times.