Those First Winter Olympics – in Saint Moritz???

The first Olympic Winter Games were held at Saint Moritz, Switzerland in 1928. What’s that you say? You thought it was at Chamonix, France in 1924? Hang on a second, and we’ll tell you why one can make a case that they actually started in 1928.

The history of the Winter Olympics is a bit complex actually. Pierre de Coubertin was not in favor in Winter Olympic Games, and opposed the idea. The concept started with the Scandinavians who started holding Nordic Games in 1901, and these are regarded as the “precursors to the Winter Olympics.” You can find out a lot about the Nordic Games and the origins of the Winter Olympics in this article by Ron Edgeworth – library.la84.org/SportsLibrary/JOH/JOHv2n2/JOHv2n2h.pdf. (A little disclaimer here – Ron Edgeworth is a pseudonym for the author of this post.)

Winter Olympic events were held at the 1908 Olympics in London, when figure skating was contested, and at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, when both figure skating and ice hockey were contested. The 1916 Olympics were scheduled for Berlin although they were never held because of World War I. Those Games also had skiing and skating events on their original program.

The leading figure in the history of the Nordic Games was Sweden’s Viktor Gustaf Balck, who was actually opposed to the idea of Winter Olympics, fearing that they would make his Nordic Games less significant, and in fact, this would happen, as the last Nordic Games would be contested in 1926.

The idea of holding winter sports at the Olympics is mentioned in IOC Sessions as early as 1909, and discussions about this concept are described going right up to the 1924 Chamonix competitions.

I say “Chamonix competitions” because they were never officially called Winter Olympic Games, although to be fair, most of the world’s press did describe them in that way. The working title of the 1924 Chamonix “Winter Olympics” was “Semaine internationale des sports d’hiver” (International Winter Sports Week). If you really want to get pedantic (and we do), their official title in the 1924 Official Report was “Les sports d’hiver organisés du vendredi 25 janvier au mardi 5 février 1924 à Chamonix – Mont Blanc par le Comité Olympique Français avec la collaboration de la Fédération Française des Sports et du Club Alpin Français sous le Haut Patronage du Comité International Olympique à l’occasion de la Célébration des Jeux de la VIIIme Olympiade.”

In May 1925 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) amended the Olympic Charter to allow for Olympic Winter Games. But the 1924 Chamonix International Winter Sports Week was never declared as the 1st Olympic Winter Games by the IOC in the minutes of its sessions, although this has been felt to be an error of a secretary taking the minutes of the session in 1925, as the IOC has long recognized Chamonix as the 1st Olympic Winter Games. Sorry, Saint Moritz.

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