The IOC, meeting the last few days in Monte Carlo, is discussing whether or not the 2018 Winter Olympic host city Pyeongchang, should move the sliding events (bobsled, luge, skeleton) to another city, with Nagano in Japan, host of the 1998 Winter Olympics, being mentioned as a possibility, although the IOC noted it could be held at as many as 12 sliding centers worldwide.
Has this ever happened before at the Winter Olympics? Well, no Winter Olympic event has ever been held in a nation other than the nation of the host city, but a similar problem arose in 1960 with the Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California. The Squaw Valley organizers refused to build a bob run that year, citing the costs and the fact that only nine European countries were pledging to compete in the sport that year. Remember that in 1960, getting from Europe to Squaw Valley, near Reno, Nevada, was not easy, especially while transporting bobsleds.
The FIBT (Fédération Internationale de Bobsleigh et de Tobogganing) countered by holding World Championships in 1960 bobsledding in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. The FIBT had never before held World Championships in a Winter Olympic year, and would not start doing it again until 1992.
But there have been other times that Olympic events have been held in different nations. The best known example is 1956 when the equestrian events were held in Stockholm, Sweden, instead of Melbourne, Australia. In that era, Australia had strict quarantine laws for animal entering the country, and the horses would have had to arrive in Australia and be quarantined for six months before being allowed to train and compete, obviously an untenable situation.
In 1920, when the Olympics were in Antwerp, Belgium, the 12-foot dinghy yachting event (now sailing) was held in Oostende, Belgium on 7-8 July. On the second day there was a problem with the course related to one of the buoys, when it shifted position, so the race was declared void. Both of the entered yachts were from the Netherlands, so it was elected to finish the final two races in the Netherlands, on the Buiten-IJ, a water near Amsterdam, on 3 September.
In 1908 yachting, one could also argue that the events were held in different countries, although not different NOCs. The 1908 Olympics were in London, England, and most of the yachting events were held off the coast of the Isle of Wight, an island off the south of England, in the English Channel. However, the 12-metre class was sailed in Glasgow, Scotland, technically a different country to some International Federations, but not to the IOC.
Sailing, or the earlier term yachting, has often been held far from the host city. In 2008, the sailing events were held at Qingdao, on the coast of China, and 718 km (446 miles) from Beijing. In 1996, the sailing competition was held at Wassaw Bay in Savannah, 248 miles (400 km) from Atlanta. In 1972, the yachting events were held in Kiel, in the very northern part of Germany, very near to Denmark, which was 871 km (541 miles) from München.
Football also spreads its games around quite a bit now, although they have always been held in the same nation as the host city, with one possible exception. In 1984, when the Games were in Los Angeles, some preliminary football matches were contested at Harvard Stadium, in Allston, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, which is 2,611 miles (4,205 km) from Los Angeles. In 1996, with the Games in Atlanta, some preliminary football matches took place in Washington, DC.
In 2012, one could again argue that some football matches took place in different countries, as some preliminaries took place in Glasgow, Scotland and Cardiff, Wales. Per FIFA, England, Scotland, and Wales are considered separate nations, or perhaps better termed geo-political entities (GPE), but the IOC only recognizes Great Britain.
In 2008, in addition to sailing at Qingdao, equestrian events were held at Hong Kong, China, which is fully 1,977 km (1,228 miles) from Beijing. Although Hong Kong was part of China in 2008, they were separate NOCs.
And there have been attempts to host the Winter Olympics in contiguous nations, with Östersund, Sweden having considered hosting the Alpine skiing events in Norway. For the 2006 Winter Olympics, Klagenfurt, Austria made a co-bid with Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, and Jesnice, Slovenia, but the bid was not advanced to the final stage of voting. In early bidding for 2006, Helsinki, Finland was going to hold the Alpine skiing events in Lillehammer, Norway; and for the 2022 Olympics, an early candidate was a combined bid from Krakow, Poland and Jasna, Slovakia. And going way back, Lahti, Finland, bidding for the 1964, 1968, and 1972 Winter Olympics, and Tampere, Finland, bidding for the 1976 Winter Olympics, both planned to hold the Alpine skiing events in Åre, Sweden.
So if the 2018 bobsledding events are moved from Pyeongchang, it will not be without precedent at the Olympics.