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Death at the Olympics

At Vancouver in 2010, Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili went off the course during a training run on the morning of the Opening Ceremony, crashing into a stanchion next to the track, and was killed instantly. This cast a pall over the Opening Ceremony, where a moment of silence was held in his memory, and the Vancouver Games in general, and was later termed by former IOC President Jacques Rogge as the worst moment of his Presidency.

This was not the first time athletes have died at the Olympics, nor was it the first time a luger died in training runs at the Olympics. The best known instance of death at the Olympics, of course, occurred at the 1972 München Summer Olympics when Arab terrorists from the Black September faction invaded the Israeli section of the Olympic Village at 31 Connollystraße and kidnapped and killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches, with five Israeli Olympic athletes dying either from a shoot-out or bombs at the Fürstenfeldbruck air base. The athletes killed were David Berger (WLT), Ze’ev Friedman (WLT), Eliezer Halfin (WRE), and Yossef Romano (WLT), and Mark Slavin, a wrestler who was scheduled to compete on the day of the attacks. The coaches and administrators killed were Yossef Gutfreund, Amitzur Shapira, Kehat Shorr, Andrei Spitzer, Yacov Springer, and Moshe Weinberg.

Other athletes have died during training at the Olympic site. In 1964 at Innsbruck, two athletes died during training events just prior to the start of the Winter Olympics. In a macabre coincidence, one was another luger who crashed off the course, Polish-born British luger Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypecki, while the other was Australian downhill skiier Ross Milne. The IOC had the Olympic Flag flown at half-mast throughout the Games, with two black ribbons attached to its bottom edge.

Only two Olympians have died during, or as the result of, actual Olympic competition in medal events. The first was Portuguese marathoner Francisco Lázaro who collapsed during the 1912 marathon race, and died early the next morning. The second was Danish cyclist Knut Enemark Jensen, who collapsed during the 1960 cycling team time trial and died shortly thereafter. It was a very hot day in Rome when Enemark Jensen collapsed. His death has been variously attributed to heatstroke, to a closed head injury from striking his head when he fell (he did not wear a helmet, as was standard in that era), or from the effects of drugs, as he was rumored to have had Ronicol, an amphetamine-like stimulant, in his blood at the time of his death. (Note: Multiple different versions of the cause of death and the status of his drug-related blood tests can be found.) Jensen’s death, and the later death of British cyclist Tom Simpson during an ascent of Mont Ventoux during the 1967 Tour de France, after which he was found to have had multiple drugs in his body, were the stimuli that prompted the IOC to begin testing for drugs at the 1968 Olympics. Another Olympic athlete died during a demonstration event at the 1936 Berlin Olympics when Austrian Ignaz Stiefsohn crashed during the gliding exhibition, and was killed instantly.

Preparing the courses can be dangerous as well at the Winter Olympics. In 1992 at Albertville speed skiing was a demonstration sport. Swiss speed skiier Nicolas Bochatay was warming up before the qualifying with his teammate Pierre-Yves Jorand. They came up over a blind mogul, but when landing on the other side, Bochatay crashed into the track of a Sno-Cat preparing the course and was killed from internal injuries he suffered. Jorand was uninjured but withdrew from the competition.

At Calgary in 1988 a similar incident occurred before the start of the second run of men’s giant slalom. The 47-year-old Austrian team physician and orthopaedic surgeon Jörg Oberhammer, who was skiing at the base of the hill, collided with another skier, 55-year-old Brian Nock, a technician for Canadian television. Oberhammer was knocked down into the tracks of a snow-grooming machine and was crushed, killing him instantly. Two Swiss skiers, Pirmin Zurbriggen and Martin Hangl, witnessed the event and were badly shaken. Zurbriggen managed to start the second run and would win a bronze medal, but Hangl collapsed at the top of the hill and had to withdraw.

There have been other Olympics-related deaths, more due to acts of God or accidents and not related to training, course preparation, or competition. In 1936 at Berlin, Romanian boxer Nicolae Berechet lost his first round match in the featherweight class on 11 August. In that pre-antibiotic era, three days later he was dead of sepsis from an infection due to a carbuncle. At the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Italian rower Arrigo Menicocci competed and then a few days later went for a car ride, but was killed in a crash before the Olympics had ended. One other athlete who died during the Olympics, but without ever competing, was Czechoslovakian female gymnast Eliska Mišaková. While training in London before the 1948 Olympics Mišaková contracted poliomyelitis and died on the day the gymnastics competition started. Her sister, Miroslava, was also on the Czechoslovak team and helped them win a gold medal.

Finally, shortly after midnite on 27 July 1996 at the Atlanta Olympics, a bomb went off in Centennial Olympic Park, a gathering place for the world’s spectators and many of the athletes. One spectator, Alice Hawthorne, was killed by the bomb and 111 others were wounded. One Turkish cameraman, Melih Uzunyol, ran to the scene to photograph it, and died of a heart attack he sustained in that effort. The bombing was initially attributed to Centennial Olympic Park employee Richard Jewell, who was wrongly accused, but was later found to have been set by Eric Rudolph, a religious extremist who seemed to be anti-almost everything except life. He was found to have set other bombs as well, was convicted, and in a plea bargain, sentenced to four consecutive life sentences without parole.

So the Olympic Games usually celebrate athletes and humanity at its finest. But they have also been the scene of great tragedy. All honor to their names.

And now, a moment a silence for those who died and have not always been given that memory.

(Note: the above was written prior to the recent terrorist attacks in Volgograd. We sincerely hope and pray that no amendments will be necessary by the end of the Sochi Olympic Games.)

Oldest Winter Olympians sport by sport

If all goes to plan a 55-year-old skier will line up in a few weeks time at the Sochi Winter Olympics – but who are the other “Golden Oldies” who have graced the Winter Games?

These are the oldest competitors to have appeared in each sport currently on the Olympic programme.

Alpine Skiing

Hubertus von Fürstenberg-von Hohenlohe (MEX)

51 years, 26 days at Vancouver 2010

You can say many things about Prince Hubertus of Hohenlohe-Langenburg but you can never, ever, say he has a dull biography.  An aristocrat with roots deep in European nobility, he has been a pop singer, professional photographer and businessman at various points in his life. In 1981 he founded the Mexican Skiing Federation in an attempt to participate in international competition. Since then he has competed at 15 World Championships and 5 Winter Olympics and, most recently, placed 56th in the slalom at the 2013 World Championships. Barring illness or injury he will return for one more Olympic appearance in Sochi.

Biathlon

Thanasis Tsakiris (GRE)

45 years, 34 days at Vancouver 2010

After a gap of 12 years Thanasis Tsakiris reappeared on the Olympic stage in 2010 at the age of 45. Originally a cross-country skier, he switched to biathlon in the late 80s and stayed in the sport long enough to compete in the same Olympic team as his daughter. He still competes, albeit at a lower level and has won national titles every year for the last 28 years.

Cross-country skiing

Arturo Kinch (CRC)

49 years, 309 days at Turin 2006

Born to parents who were Protestant missionaries in Costa Rica, Arturo Kinch took up ski racing whilst on a soccer scholarship at a Colorado college. He first competed at the Winter Games as an Alpine skier at Lake Placid in 1980 then returned in 1984 as the first man for over 30 years to compete at both alpine and cross-country at the same Olympics. After a 12-year gap he returned to the Olympic arena in 2006 and finally brought the curtain down on his career in Turin when two months shy of his 50th birthday.

Curling

Carl August Kronlund (SWE)

58 years, 155 days at Chamonix 1924

Oldest competitor at any Olympic Winter Games.

At 58 years of age, Carl August Kronlund was not only the oldest competitor at the inaugural Winter Olympics but also the oldest medal winner. Kronlund, a Stockholm businessman, played in Sweden’s victory over France and received a silver medal for his exploits. For many years it was incorrectly thought that the curling tournament in 1924 was only a demonstration event but, at the start of the 21st century, the IOC confirmed that it was a full medal event.

Figure Skating

Joseph Savage (USA)

52 years, 267 days at Lake Placid 1932

Joseph Savage’s sporting career reads like it should have happened in reverse. A successful attorney with a New York law firm, he was a major figure in the administration on figure skating in America and served a term as the President of the Amateur Skating Union of the USA in 1929-30. Savage was also a relatively successful competitor who was a regular winner of Mid-Atlantic regional titles in the 1920s.  He was just short of 50 when he won his 1st medal at the US nationals and 52 when he and partner Gertrude Meredith qualified for the 1932 Olympics.  Amazingly his career did not end there and in 1936 he combined with Marjorie Parker Smith to win the inaugural US national title in ice dancing. He was still competing and winning medals at the US Championships aged 63.

Bobsleigh

Hubert Menten (NED)

54 years, 158 days at St. Moritz 1928

A businessman whose family made their fortune in the oil business, Hubert Menten was one of the founders of the Dutch bobsleigh club in Davos, Switzerland which was instrumental in getting the Dutch bob to the 1928 Olympics, and later coached the 1929 Dutch duo that won the European title. An avid art collector and dealer, he was also very much pro-Nazi in his political views and was investigated by the Allied powers for his dealings with Hermann Goering.

Freestyle Skiing

Clyde Getty (ARG)

44 years, 152 days at Turin 2006

Born and raised in North Carolina, Clyde Getty came through the US system before switching to Argentina, the land of the parents, which enabled him to compete at the 2006 Winter Olympics. He continues to compete at World Cup level, although now in his 50s, and has an outside shot at the Sochi Games.

Ice Hockey

Béla Ordódy (HUN)

48 years, 29 days at St.Moritz 1928

Béla Ordódy was a major figure in the early years of Hungarian soccer and played for the first ever Hungarian national team in 1901. He was even awarded a trophy for Hungary’s player of the year in 1902. A generation later Ordódy re-emerged as goaltender for the Hungarian national ice hockey team at the 1928 Winter Olympic Games. At the time there was a fair amount of crossover between the two sports particularly in continental Europe. He only conceded a single goal in his only Olympic appearance but the goal was enough to eliminate Hungary from the tournament.

Luge

Matiás Stinnes (ARG)

53 years, 217 days at Innsbruck 1964

When luge became an Olympic sport Argentina set up a team of six to provide competitors for the 1964 Winter Games. The only survivor of this programme was 53-year-old German born Matiás Stinnes.  Stinnes crashed out of the Innsbruck Games but appeared on the entry lists again at the 1968 Games at Grenoble though he withdrew before the competition began.

Nordic Combined

Anders Haugen (USA)

39 years, 115 days at St.Moritz 1928

Already a record holder as the oldest Olympian in his sport’s history, Anders Haugen was 86-years-old when he finally received his Olympic bronze medal. In 1974, at the 50th reunion of the 1924 Norwegian team, Norwegian sports historian Jacob Vaage was going over the results when he noticed an error. Haugen had correctly been given 17.916 points, but 3rd place finisher Thorleif Haug’s scores added up to 17.821, not the 18.000 with which he had been credited. The IOC was notified and at a special ceremony in Oslo, on 12 September 1974, Anders Haugen was given his bronze medal by Haug’s daughter – more than 50 years after the competition.

Short Track Speed Skating

Cathy Turner (USA)

35 years, 314 days at Nagano 1998

A US champion as a teenager, Cathy Turner retired from the sport in 1980 and became a professional singer. A decade later, with short track now an Olympic sport, she returned and claimed victory in the 500 m at the Albertville Games.  Another short-lived retirement followed but she was back to retain her Olympic title in 1994. Known as a tough and ruthless skater, Turner bowed out of Olympic competition at the Nagano Olympics.

Skeleton

James Coates (GBR)

53 years, 295 days at St. Moritz 1948

The sport of skeleton has, like its sister sport bobsleigh, benefitted from the British aristocracy’s predilection to do stupid and dangerous things at high speeds. It seems fitting therefore that the oldest man to compete in Olympic skeleton is James Stuart Coates, 3rd Baronet Coates, of Auchendrane. Coates was a veteran of St. Moritz and once said of the Cresta Run “She is a powerful and attractive mistress. She will stand no nonsense when you are learning the ropes and many and severe are the rebuffs she will give to even her most ardent suitors”. A veteran of World War I, Coates was to be in charge of the operation to evacuate British royalty should German forces invade Britain during World War II.

Ski Jumping

Pál Ványa (HUN)

43 years, 239 days at St. Moritz 1948

From modern day Slovakia, Pál Ványa had been Hungarian champion as far back as 1931. His Olympic experience consisted of a single jump at the 1948 Olympics that ended in a fall on landing.

Snowboarding

Sondra Van Ert (USA)

37 years, 342 days at Salt Lake City 2002

Originally an alpine skier at the University of Utah Sondra Van Ert was good enough to win silver in downhill when she represented the USA at the World University Games. A serious knee injury shortly before graduation seemed to end her racing career and she became the manager of a paint store in Idaho. She took up recreational snowboarding at the age of 26 and soon returned to the competitive side of sport. Van Ert won 6 US titles and 2 World Championship bronzes before retiring in 2004.

Speed Skating

Albert Tebbit (GBR)

52 years, 31 days at Chamonix 1924

It may seem incredible to today’s speed skating fans but once upon a time British skaters were amongst the best in the world. Unfortunately for Albert Tebbitt that time, which coincided with his prime as a skater, came 30 years before speed skating débuted at the Olympics. Tebbitt even broke a world record, the now unofficial hour record, but his best days were well behind him when he made his bow at Olympic level.

Sochi – the Olympic Program

There will be 98 events contested at Sochi, with 49 events for men, 43 for women, and 6 mixed events, although we’ll have a bit more to say about mixed events in a bit. Now that ski jumping has been added, women will compete in every sport/discipline on the Sochi Program except Nordic combined. Women are underrepresented on the Olympic Winter Program with 1 bobsledding event to 2 for men, 1 ski jumping event to 3 for men, and no events in Nordic combined to 3 for men.

Winter sports/events came into the Olympics in 1908, with figure skating contested as part of the 1908 and 1920 Olympic Games, and ice hockey also contested at Antwerp in 1920. Since then the Olympic Program breakdown has looked like this:

Years   Men  Women  Mixed  Total    %Wom      %Mix

1908            2            1            1            4         25.0%       25.0%

1920            2            1            1            4         25.0%       25.0%

1924           14           1            1          16           6.3%         6.3%

1928           12           1            1          14           7.1%         7.1%

1932           12           1            1          14           7.1%         7.1%

1936           14           2            1          17         11.8%         5.9%

1948           17           4            1          22         18.2%         4.5%

1952           16           5            1          22         22.7%         4.5%

1956           17           6            1          24         25.0%         4.2%

1960           16         10            1          27         37.0%         3.7%

1964           20         12            2          34         35.3%         5.9%

1968           21         12            2          35         34.3%         5.7%

1972           21         12            2          35         34.3%         5.7%

1976           22         12            3          37         32.4%         8.1%

1980           23         12            3          38         31.6%         7.9%

1984           23         13            3          39         33.3%         7.7%

1988           27         16            3          46         34.8%         6.5%

1992           31         23            3          57         40.4%         5.3%

1994           33         25            3          61         41.0%         4.9%

1998           36         29            3          68         42.6%         4.4%

2002           41         34            3          78         43.6%         3.8%

2006           44         37            3          84         44.0%         3.6%

2010           45         38            3          86         44.2%         3.5%

2014           49         43            6          98         43.9%         6.1%

Totals      509       307         46       862        35.6%         5.3%

From 1976-2010 the mixed events were pairs figure skating, ice dance figure skating, and doubles luge, although the luge event is an anomaly. Technically the event is open to men and women as a mixed event. But no woman has ever competed in doubles luge at the Olympic Winter Games or World Championships, nor is the option ever really discussed or considered. Thus, there is some justification to consider it a men’s event.

There are 12 more events on the Sochi Program than there were at Vancouver in 2010. The new events are as follows, along with the time at which they first were contested at World Championships:

Biathlon                  X   Mixed Relay                2005 World Championship

Figure Skating      X   Team Trophy              never contested at Worlds

Freestyle Skiing  M  Slopestyle                    2011 World Championship

Freestyle Skiing  M  Halfpipe                        2005 World Championship

Freestyle Skiing   F   Slopestyle                    2011 World Championship

Freestyle Skiing   F   Halfpipe                        2005 World Championship

Luge                            X   Mixed Relay               1989 World Championship

Ski Jumping            F   Normal Hill, Indiv.   2009 World Championship

Snowboarding     M  Slopestyle                    2011 World Championship

Snowboarding     M  Parallel Sp. Slalom   1996 World Championship

Snowboarding      F   Slopestyle                     2011 World Championship

Snowboarding      F   Parallel Sp. Slalom    1996 World Championship

The figure skating team trophy is interesting, in that it has not been contested at the World Championships. The Olympic Charter used to state that events would only be added if they had first been contested at international competitions, “To be included in the programme of the Olympic Games, events must have a recognised international standing both numerically and geographically, and have been included at least twice in world or continental championships.” That was in the 2004 Olympic Charter, but that text was removed in the next edition, in 2007.

So women are getting closer to full gender equity at the Winter Olympics. They can actually now compete in 50.0% of the events on the program, although only technically, remembering doubles luge. Men can compete in 56.1% of the events, because of the overlap with mixed events.

If women’s ski jumping is successful and expands internationally, it is possible the program will become all but equal, but it is important to remember that Nordic combined events for women are held virtually nowhere and there have been no international competitions in that discipline for women. A recent story talked about Russian women starting to compete in Nordic combined and it was most notable for the rarity of women in that sport. Hard to imagine women’s Olympic events in Nordic combined in the foreseeable future.

Sochi – The Costs

The rumor is afloat that the Sochi Olympics will cost $51 billion (US). Does that make these the most expensive Olympic Games ever? In a word, yes, but please remember that determining the cost of an Olympics is fraught with complex issues, and it is really difficult to say how much each Olympic Games cost. Further, the world has changed over the years, with inflation eroding the value of a dollar, or a Euro, or a ruble. Obviously, the Olympic Games have also changed, with more athletes at each Olympics, and more events.

There are two costs to an Olympic Games, or Olympic Winter Games. The costs of hosting the Olympics – building venues, building the Olympic Village, hiring the administration for seven years, bidding for the Games (which now costs 10s of millions), hiring security, now a major cost, and many other costs of hosting. Infrastructure is more a civic line item – what the city does to gussy itself up for the world’s visitors, and for the future use of the city’s population (or village for Lake Placid, or neighborhood for Squaw Valley).

As an example, in 1996, Atlanta greatly upgraded Hartsfield International Airport, readying it for the influx of Olympic visitors. Is that an Olympic cost? Some would say yes, but Atlanta’s airport needed a major upgrade – it was due, and using the Olympic host responsibilities as a pretext allowed the city to justify that upgrade and offload the cost, somewhat, to the Olympic costs.

In 2004, Athens built a major circumferential highway around the city, and a new major train line from Athens city centre to Piraeus, the Athenian port city. Both were civic improvements that Athens sorely wanted and needed and the Olympics allowed them to justify building those. In both Atlanta’s and Athens’ cases, those new building projects improved the cities for years to come. Are those Olympic costs – or simply civic improvements?

There is no way to know for certain, and no way to be certain of the accounting. So we have to go on the usually published numbers, and in Sochi’s case that number is 51 billion US dollars.

But we should definitely correct for inflation, adjusting costs for previous Games to current dollars. And there are other ways to compare costs. The more athletes at an Olympics, the more it costs to run the Olympic Games themselves. The Olympic Village has to be larger. You have to protect each athlete with more security, you have to transport the athletes, you have to feed the athletes. So a better way to look at Olympic costs is to compare fixed costs against inflation per number of athletes at the Games.

Further I would say that it is important to also compare against the number of events at the Games. The more events, the more sports. The more sports, the more venues. For each additional venue, there are usually building costs. For each additional event, you have to provide more security for that event. Currently, the two biggest costs to an OCOG (Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games) are the cost of building venues (has always been #1 cost) and the cost of providing security. So perhaps an ever finer way to drill down is to look at Olympic costs against inflation per number of athletes, per number of events at the Games.

So here are the numbers for Sochi, the last four Winter Olympics, the last two Summer Olympics, and also looking at Tokyo in 1964, using usually quoted cost figures. Why Tokyo? Because prior to Beijing in 2008, Tokyo was the most expensive Summer Olympics ever, per number of athletes, and per number of athletes and events.

Olympic Costs     Constant $                                   Constant $   Constant $

Year  Host City  (mill 2012$)  Events  Athletes  Per Athlete  Per Ath/Evt

1964  Tokyo             $14,162        163       5,137  $2,755,415         $16,904

2008  Beijing           $31,987        302     10,901  $2,934,629           $9,705

2012  London          $14,460        302     10,520  $1,374,394          $4,551

1998  Nagano         $14,078          68       2,180  $6,457,985         $94,970

…………………………….$1,267                                          $581,193            $8,547

2002  Salt Lake C    $2,551          78       2,399  $1,062,068         $13,616

2006  Torino               $4,665          84       2,494  $1,870,408         $22,267

2010  Vancouver      $7,376          86       2,536  $2,908,401         $33,819

2014  Sochi               $51,000          98  2,700e $18,888,889      $192,744

Several things are evident in the above. First, prior to Sochi the most expensive Olympics, inflation adjusted cost per athlete (IACPA), and in inflation adjusted cost per athlete per event (IACPAPE), was Nagano in 1998. But Nagano is tricky. There are two figures usually quoted for its costs – either $10 billion (US), or $900 million (US) (adjusted to 2012 figures above), which are nowhere near close to each other, and obviously reflect the costs of hosting versus the cost of hosting plus infrastructure. Nagano had to almost create a winter resort from scratch and build train lines from Tokyo and other major cities to get people there, so their infrastructure costs were huge.

But even using the bigger number for Nagano, and using the $51 billion # for Sochi, Sochi will be three times as expensive in IACPA, and twice as expensive in IACPAPE. Comparing to Beijing, the previously acknowledged champion for Olympic costs at $30 billion in 2008, Sochi is way more expensive per athlete and per athlete/per event. In fact that’s not even close when looking at IACPAPE. And check out the $ figure per athlete at about $19 million – that makes every Winter Olympian in 2014 about the value of Peyton Manning, per the Sochi OCOG. And you thought the Yankees overspent?

Secondly, when you compare Beijing to Tokyo, adjusted for inflation and number of athletes, Beijing and Tokyo cost almost the same amount of money. And if you compare per athlete/per event, Tokyo was still more expensive than Beijing.

Finally, from the above it is obvious that Olympic Winter Games are actually more expensive than Summer Games when comparing against # of athletes and # of events. There are fewer athletes (about ¼th as many as the Summer Games) and fewer events (now about ⅓rd as many), but you still gotta build Olympic Villages, build venues, and provide security. In fact, at Winter Games you usually need to build two Olympic Villages now – one in the mountains and one near the city centre for indoor events.

So anyway you figure it, Sochi will be a very expensive Olympic Games, and definitely the most expensive Olympic Games ever conducted. And are these numbers conservative with security costs likely to skyrocket after the terrorist attacks in Volgograd? Will it be worth it for Sochi and the region of Krasnodar Kray? Will the new facilities bring tourists in the winter, and in Sochi’s case, even in the summer by the Black Sea? Or will those facilities lay fallow, as Olympic white elephants, similar to so many of the facilities in Sarajevo, Athens, or Beijing, and many other Olympic host cities? Only time will let us know.

Malta joins the 49ers

Shortly before Christmas the French born Alpine skier Elise Pelegrin qualified for the Sochi Winter Olympics. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal but Pelegrin has Maltese ancestry and elected to compete for Malta at the beginning of the 2012-2013 season.  Out of 49  European nations currently affiliated with the IOC, Malta is the only one yet to make an appearance at the Winter Games. Barring unforeseen circumstances this will change in February and, for the first time, all the eligible European countries will be present in Sochi.

Of the 16 nations that competed at the inaugural Winter Olympics in 1924 fourteen were European including powerhouse nations Austria and Norway but also lesser lights like Belgium and Hungary.

Germany, banned from the Games following World War I, debuted alongside the Netherlands in 1928 and more Mediterranean nations followed in 1936.  A slow trickle of new nations followed post-WW2 until the changes in Eastern Europe saw the emergence into Olympic competition of a flood of ex-Soviet and ex-Yugoslav nations from 1992 onwards.

European nations to compete at the Winter Olympics are, in order of debut;

1924 – Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Great Britain, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Yugoslavia.

1928 – Estonia, Germany, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania

1936 – Bulgaria, Spain, Greece, Liechtenstein, Turkey

1948 – Denmark, Iceland

1952 – Portugal

1956 – Soviet Union

1968 – West Germany, East Germany

1976 – Andorra, San Marino

1980 – Cyprus

1984 – Monaco

1992 – Croatia, Ireland, Slovenia

1994 – Armenia, Georgia, Czech Republic, Israel, Moldova, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Bosnia

1998 – Azerbaijan, Serbia and Montenegro, FYR Macedonia,

2006 – Albania

2010 – Serbia, Montenegro

2014 –  Malta

Outside the mainstream nations cross-country skiers from Greenland regularly compete for Denmark and a snowboarder from the Isle of Man has represented Great Britain.

Will there be any additions to this list? That depends on politics. The next debutants might be Kosovo? Or Scotland? Perhaps the Basque Country or Catalonia? We’ll just have to wait and see – although the clever bet is that it might be a while before we see a snowboarder from the Vatican City nailing a Rippey flip at the Olympics.

Most Winter Olympic Appearances

Todd Lodwick recently qualified for his 6th US Olympic team in Nordic combined. He will become the first American to compete at 6 Winter Olympics, although that only ties the record held by 16 men and 4 women. The lists for most appearances at the Winter Olympics by men and women are as follows, with the US records at the bottom of each list.

Note that of the 5 men and 1 woman who competed in their 6th Winter Olympics at Vancouver in 2010, we expect two of them to compete in Sochi to set a record with their 7th Winter Olympic appearance – Albert Demchenko of Russia in luge and Noriaki Kasai of Japan in ski jumping.

Appearances – Men, Winter

6           Carl-Erik Eriksson (SWE-BOB; 1964/68/72/76/80/84)

6           Colin Coates (AUS-SSK; 1968/72/76/80/84/88)

6           Alfred Eder (AUT-BIA; 1976/80/84/88/92/94)

6           Jochen Behle (FRG/GER-CCS; 1980/84/88/92/94/98)

6           Harri Kirvesniemi (FIN-CCS; 1980/84/88/92/94/98)

6           Mike Dixon (GBR-BIA/CCS; 1984/88/92/94/98/02)

6           Raimo Helminen (FIN-ICH; 1984/88/92/94/98/02)

6           Markus Prock (AUT-LUG; 1984/88/92/94/98/02)

6           Sergey Chepikov (EUN/RUS/URS-BIA/CCS; 1988/92/94/98/02/06)

6           Georg Hackl (FRG/GER-LUG; 1988/92/94/98/02/06)

6           Wilfried Huber (ITA-LUG; 1988/92/94/98/02/06)

6           Ilmārs Bricis (LAT-BIA; 1992/94/98/02/06/10)

6           Marco Büchel (LIE-ASK; 1992/94/98/02/06/10)

6           Andrus Veerpalu (EST-CCS; 1992/94/98/02/06/10)

6           Albert Demchenko (EUN/RUS-LUG; 1992/94/98/02/06/10)

6           Noriaki Kasai (JPN-SKJ; 1992/94/98/02/06/10)

5           Brian Shimer (BOB; 1988/92/94/98/02)

5           Casey Puckett (ASK/FRS; 1992/94/98/02/10)

5           Mark Grimmette (LUG; 1994/98/02/06/10)

5           Todd Lodwick (NCO; 1994/98/02/06/10)

4           Jim Bickford, Jr. (BOB; 1936/48/52/56)

4           Larry Damon (BIA/CCS; 1956/60/64/68)

4           Tim Caldwell (CCS; 1972/76/80/84)

4           Bill Koch (CCS; 1976/80/84/92)

4           Lyle Nelson (BIA; 1976/80/84/88)

4           Brent Rushlaw (BOB; 1976/80/84/88)

4           Chris Chelios (ICH; 1984/98/02/06)

4           Dan Jansen (SSK; 1984/88/92/94)

4           Eric Flaim (SSK/STK; 1988/92/94/98)

4           A J Kitt (ASK; 1988/92/94/98)

4           Chris Thorpe (LUG; 1992/94/98/02)

4           Keith Tkachuk (ICH; 1992/98/02/06)

4           Eric Bergoust (FRS; 1994/98/02/06)

4           KC Boutiette (SSK; 1994/98/02/06)

4           Daron Rahlves (ASK/FRS; 1998/02/06/10)

4           Bode Miller (ASK; 1998/02/06/10)

4           Jay Hakkinen (BIA; 1998/02/06/10)

4           Bill Demong (NCO; 1998/02/06/10)

4           Brian Martin (LUG; 1998/02/06/10)

 

Appearances – Women, Winter

6           Marja-Liisa Kirvesniemi-Hämäläinen (FIN-CCS; 1976/80/84/88/92/94)

6           Emese Nemeth-Hunyady (AUT/HUN-SSK; 1984/88/92/94/98/02)

6           Gerda Weissensteiner (ITA-BOB/LUG; 1988/92/94/98/02/06)

6           Anna Orlova (LAT-LUG; 1992/94/98/02/06/10)

5           24 women tied with 4 appearances.

4           Mary Docter (SSK; 1980/84/88/92)

4           Bonnie Blair (SSK; 1984/88/92/94)

4           Cammy Myler (LUG; 1988/92/94/98)

4           Ann Battelle (FRS; 1992/94/98/02)

4           Nina Kemppel (CCS; 1992/94/98/02)

4           Amy Peterson (STK; 1992/94/98/02)

4           Chris Witty (SSK; 1994/98/02/06)

4           Jennifer Rodriguez (SSK; 1998/02/06/10)

4           Catherine Raney Norman (SSK; 1998/02/06/10)

4           Sarah Schleper (ASK; 1998/02/06/10)

4           Angela Ruggiero (ICH; 1998/02/06/10)

4           Jenny Schmidgall-Potter (ICH; 1998/02/06/10)

 

Winter Olympians from snowless nations

Competitors from snowless nations

Medals at the Winter Olympics are always won by athletes from countries that have snow. This makes sense: a boy from Austria is more likely to end up being an alpine skier than a boy from, say, Cuba. That doesn’t mean athletes from snowless countries aren’t trying to win medals at the Winter Olympics. The most famous may be the Jamaican bobsleigh team that competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics, as they were made immortal by the movie “Cool Runnings“. That team did not actually complete the competition, but in 1994 the four-man crew from Jamaica finished a respectable 14th (in a field of 30), which was then also the best performance by competitors from a snowless nation.

But the Jamaican bobbers are not the best Winter Olympians from a snowless nation. First, in Torino 2006, they were dethroned by a bobsleigh duo from Monaco. The Monegasque bob had traditionally been piloted by Prince Albert but Patrice Servelle and Jérémy Bottin did much better than their monarch had ever done, placing 12th. Jamaica regained the throne in 2010, however. The island’s first ever skier, Errol Kerr, place 9th in the inaugural version of the ski cross event, just missing the semi-finals.

In all, 23 snowless nations (or with occasional snow at best) have competed at the Winter Olympics. These are their best results:

1. Jamaica – Errol Kerr (Freestyle skiing, Ski cross, 2010) – 9th
2. Monaco – Patrice Servelle & Jérémy Bottin (Bobsleigh, Two, 2006) – 12th
3. US Virgin Islands – Anne Abernathy (Luge, Singles, 1988) – 16th
4. Hong Kong – Han Yue Shuang (Short track, 1,000 m, 2006) – 18th
5. Bermuda – Patrick Singleton (Skeleton, 2006) – 19th
6. Uruguay – Gabriel Hottegrindre (Alpine skiing, Slalom, 1998) – 24th
7. Puerto Rico – Liston Bochette, José Ferrer, Jorge Bonnet & Douglas Rosado (Bobsleigh, Four, 1994) – 25th
8. Netherlands Antilles – Bart Carpentier Alting & Bart Drechsel (Bobsleigh, Two, 1988) – 29th
9. Trinidad & Tobago – Gregory Sun & Curtis Harry (Bobsleigh, Two, 1998) – 32nd
10. Philippines – Raymund Ocampo (Luge, Singles, 1988) – 35th
11. American Samoa – Faauuga Muagututia & Brad Kiltz (Bobsleigh, Two, 1994) – 39th
12. Madagascar – Mathieu Razanakolona (Alpine skiing, Giant slalom, 2006) – 39th
13. British Virgin Islands – Erroll Fraser (Speed skating, 500 m, 1984) – 40th
14. Costa Rica – Arturo Kinch (Alpine skiing, Donhill, 1980) – 41st
15. Senegal – Lamien Guèye (Alpine skiing, Downhill, 1992) – 45th
16. Ghana – Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong (Alpine skiing, Slalom, 2010) – 47th
17. Honduras – Jenny Palacios-Stillo (Cross country skiing, 15 km, 1992) – 50th
18. Fiji – Laurence Thomas (Alpine skiing, Giant slalom, 2002) – 55th
19. Swaziland – Keith Fraser (Alpine skiing, Giant slalom, 1992) – 63rd
20. Cameroon – Isaac Menyoli (Cross country skiing, Sprint, 2002) – 65th
21. Thailand – Prawat Nagvajara (Cross country skiing, Sprint, 2002) – 66th
22. Cayman Islands – Dow Travers (Alpine skiing, Giant slalom, 2010) – 69th
23. Guam – Judd Bankert (Biathlon, 10 km, 1988) – 71st

(List of countries without snow was taken from here.)

Of course, not all of these athletes grew up in a snowless country.  Mathieu Razanakolona, for example, grew up in Canada but competed for Madagascar on account of his Malagasy father, while Erroll Fraser and Anne Abernathy were both born in the US.

The list of snowless countries competing at the Winter Olympics will likely expand in Sochi. Countries without snowfall that will possibly début in 2014 are Eritrea, Malta, Paraguay, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga and Zimbabwe.

Olympic-Related Sites

The best site for statistical information on the web is at http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/. You should bookmark it and use it frequently during Sochi for information on what has gone before.

Yes, I do have something to do with it. The site is work done by me and a group of my associates who we call the OlyMADMen – there are about a dozen of us, led by Jeroen Heijmans (NED), Arild Gjerde (NOR), and Hilary Evans(GBR/Wales) (and Hilary is actually James Hilary Evans, to clear that up). Other main contributors to the site are Taavi Kalju (EST), Wolf Reinhardt (GER), Martin Kellner (AUT), Ralf Regnitter (GER), Paul Tchir (CAN), Ralph Schlüter (GER), Mørten Aarlia Torp (NOR), Magne Teigen (NOR), and David Foster (GBR). A few other Olympic stat freaks also help us out – Christian Tugnoli (ITA), Ove Karlsson (SWE), Stein Opdahl (NOR), Carl-Johan Johansson (SWE), Paweł Wudarski (POL), and others.

sports-reference.com/olympics is based on our own private website, which we use as our research site – its located at www.olympedia.org. Sorry, but for now it’s a private site, but we can allow you access if you want it – just send us an email (bill1729@gmail.com) or post your email below. You’ll love it, I promise you, if you like the Olympics. Olympedia and sports-reference are similar, but different. Information goes on Olympedia first and gets picked up by sports-reference later, after some editing.

Other sites you should know about:

www.olympic.org – the main IOC site

www.teamusa.org – the main US Olympic Committee site

www.sochi2014.com – the main site for the Sochi Organizing Committee – all athlete bios and results eventually will be on here

www.insidethegames.biz – lots of good stuff, updated daily, follow at @insidethegames

olympictalk.nbcsports.com/author/nzaccardi86 – NBC’s main web guy Nick Zaccardi adds new stuff daily, follow at @nzaccardi

www.chicagotribune.com/sports/globetrotting – Phil Hersh, US best known Olympic-beat writer, keeps tabs on everything in international sport, follow at @olyphil

www.3wiresports.com/author/alan-abrahamson – Alan Abrahamson, former LA Times Olympic-beat writer, follows the Olympic Movement closely, follow at @alanabrahamson

frontierbeaver.com/sports – a blog by Ollie Williams, a bit British oriented but covers all Olympic sports and nations, follow at @OllieW

http://espn.go.com/olympics – Bonnie Ford keeps us up-to-date even if ESPN doesn’t usually know about any sports other than the NFL – but Bonnie does, follow at @Bonnie_D_Ford

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/olympics – although Sports Illustrated suffers from the ESPN-virus of NFL-only at times, look for anything by Tim Layden, who knows his stuff, follow at @SITimLayden

www.aroundtherings.com – Around the Rings, led by Ed Hula, focuses on the Olympic Movement – this is a pay-site – follow at @EHula_ATR

www.gamesbids.com – information about the bidding process and host cities – can be of some interest

Sochi – the Site

The XXII Olympic Winter Games (the official title) will be held in Sochi, Russia, a resort on the Black Sea in the southern part of Russia, a little east of the Crimean Peninsula. Much has been made of Sochi as a Winter Olympic site, with critics saying it is too warm, too far south, and more a summer resort than a winter one. So let’s look at some numbers – after all, that’s what I do.

Is Sochi the southernmost site for a Winter Olympics? Nope, in fact, four other sites have been located at more southerly latitudes than Sochi, as follows:

Year     City                         NOC      Latitude (N)

1998     Nagano               JPN        36°-38′

1960     Squaw Valley   USA       39°-11′

2002     Salt Lake City  USA       40°-45′

1972     Sapporo              JPN        43°-04′

2014     Sochi                     RUS       43°-35′

Lillehammer (1994) was the northernmost Winter Olympic host city, at 61°-07′, followed by Oslo (1952) at 59°-57′.

Is Sochi at the lowest altitude of any Winter Olympic host city? Not really, although this depends on your approach to defining altitude. Most cities have a “base” altitude, and using this, Sochi is higher up than Vancouver was in 2010 – Vancouver’s base altitude on the Pacific Ocean was 0. Here are the lowest base altitudes for Olympic Winter host cities:

Year     City                        NOC      Altitude (m)

2010     Vancouver         CAN                       0

1972     Sapporo              JPN                      19

1952     Oslo                      NOR                     23

2014     Sochi                    RUS                      65

1994     Lillehammer    NOR                  208

The highest elevations for Winter Olympic hosts were Squaw Valley, California (USA) (1960) at 1,900 metres (6,235 feet) and Saint Moritz (SUI) (1928/48) at 1,822 metres (5,980 feet).

Remember, however, that Sochi has two separate sets of sites – the Coastal Cluster, by the Black Sea, and the Mountain Cluster, in the western Caucasus Mountains, near Krasnaya Polyana. Krasnaya Polyana has a base elevation of 560 metres (1,840 feet), with the mountains rising to 2,320 metres (7,610 feet).

So is Sochi the warmest site ever for a Winter Olympics. Basically, yes, but not by all that much, and for those of you who remember the Spring Olympics in Vancouver (so-called by Shaun White), Sochi’s temperature, down by the Black Sea, is about the same.

Year     City                      NOC        Feb Mean Temp (C° / F°)

2014     Sochi                  RUS                     6° / 43°

2010     Vancouver      CAN                     5° / 41°

1992     Albertville       FRA                      5° / 41°

2006     Torino                ITA                        4° / 39°

1924     Chamonix        FRA                      4° / 39°

1968     Grenoble          FRA                      3° / 37°

The coldest sites for Winter Olympics were Lillehammer (NOR) (1994) and Lake Placid, New York (USA) (1932/80) where the average February temperature is about -9° C. or 17° F. So its safe to say Sochi will not be the coolest ever Winter Olympic site.

Other critics of Sochi have said that the site is too small for a modern Winter Olympics, and that too much of it has had to be built from scratch. While it is true that huge amounts of infrastructure has been required to make Sochi an Olympic city, as a host site, its not that small. Here are the populations of Winter Olympic host cities currently, and in the year in which they hosted:

Year     City                       NOC     Pop (2013)    Pop (OlyYr)

1972     Sapporo             JPN       1,918,000        1,150,000

2006     Torino                  ITA            912,000           857,000

1988     Calgary               CAN     1,097,000           650,000

2010     Vancouver        CAN         603,500           603,500

1984     Sarajevo             BIH           438,000           448,000

1952     Oslo                     NOR         629,000           447,000

1998     Nagano              JPN           387,000           356,000

2014     Sochi                   RUS           343,000           343,000

And nothing compares to the two United States’ host cities. Lake Placid, New York had a population of 2,950 in 1932 and 2,490 in 1980, while Squaw Valley, California barely existed in 1960, with a population for that site generously estimated at 300, by David Antonucci, author of a book on the 1960 Winter Olympics (Snowball’s Chance: The Story of the 1960 Olympic Winter Games).

And if you think Sochi needs to build infrastructure when Squaw Valley was selected as host city in June 1955, it didn’t exist. Antonucci thinks only two families actually lived in what was to become Squaw Valley. But it was a different time.

Rumors abound that Sochi is costing $51 billion (US) for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Is that a record? Stay tuned – more to come.

Hello Olympic World

For those of you who know me, you realize I’ve been obsessed by the Olympics and Olympic Stats for almost 50 years now. For those who don’t, you’ll soon find out.

I’ve been able to write almost 25 books on the Olympics Games – you can find many of them on Amazon, mostly dealing with the history of the Olympics, books such as Historical Dictionary of the Olympic Movement (with Ian Buchanan and later with Jeroen Heijmans), The Golden Book of the Olympic Games (with Erich Kamper), a series of books on the early Olympic Games, from 1896-1920, and my first book, also done with Ian Buchanan, with Quest for Gold: The Encyclopedia of American Olympians.

In 1991, along with Buchanan, Kamper, Ture Widlund, David Wallechinsky, Stan Greenberg, Ove Karlsson, and others, we formed the International Society of Olympic Historians (ISOH) – you can check us out here – http://www.isoh.org/. We met at a pub in the Knightsbridge section of London, the Duke of Clarence, although the pub no longer exists, and formed the society on a cold, rainy London December day. ISOH has since grown to almost 500 members world-wide, with a very nice journal, the Journal of Olympic History, for which I was the first editor, from 1991-96 – now edited by Volker Kluge, pre-eminent German Olympic historian. I also had the privilege of serving as the second President of ISOH, from 2000-2004, following Ian Buchanan. The current President is David Wallechinsky, author of the great book, The Complete Book of the Olympics, which has had a new edition after Olympic Games since 1984.

So come along for the ride – I’ll be posting lots of Olympic information in the run-up to Sochi 2014. If you want to follow me on Twitter, its @bambam1729, and on my tweets, I’ll keep everyone informed when I’ve put new material here on OlympStats. During Sochi, I’ll be posting new historical and statistical data several times a day, always updating via Twitter. Welcome aboard.

Bill Mallon MD