The Winter Olympics were created so that snow and ice sports would also have Olympic category
The modern Olympic Games were made to revive the ancient Olympic Games, when cities-states from Ancient Greece all gathered to compete against each other in the city of Olympia (hence the name).
In Olympics, teams are formed by athletes from a same country who compete in different sports. The objective of the modern Olympic Games was that of creating a competition that would bring all countries of the world together.
The first Olympic Games were celebrated in Athens, capital of Greece, during the summer of 1896. Just like the ancient games, the following editions were celebrated every 4 years: Athens 1896, Paris 1900, San Luis 1904, London 1908, Stockholm 1912, Berlin 1916, Antwerp 1920, …
At the Olympics in Paris, 1924, the problem of celebrating the games in Summer was made clear: sports that were practiced on ice or snow could not be played.
This is how the idea arose: celebrating a “International Winter Sports week”, held in early 1924 in the French town of Chamonix, near the Alps.
Athletes and members of the IOC, little did they know that they were attending the first Winter Olympic Games.
Un 25 de enero, en 1924, comenzaron en la localidad alpina de Chamonix (Francia) los primeros Juegos Olímpicos de Invierno. Las distintas pruebas se celebraron a los pies del Mont Blanc y contaron con la participación de 16 países y 258 atletas. pic.twitter.com/Ipycg8gLjT
— NatGeo Traveler (@NGTravelerLatin) January 25, 2018
History is now in the game
The Winter Olympic Games also suffered the consequences of the 20th century events.
The 1936 Winter Olympics were celebrated in the German city Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Germany was living by then, the rise of Nazism. the IOC had to call Adolf Hitler’s Reich’s attention so that they would remove their banners against Jews and not to do any propaganda during the games.
A few years later, the Winter games had to be cancelled because of World War 2 (1939-1945).
At the end of the conflict, Germany was left divided in 2 parts. East Germany, isolated along with the communist government of the Soviet Union, and West Germany, under the capitalist influence of the US.
Some Western governments turned down athletes from the East in their competitions, but the IOC decided that any country wishing to host the Olympics Games had to commit to accepting German athletes from both sides.
From wooden skis to airbag skiers
After 100 years of history, the competition has gone through a great deal of changes in its organization.
Some sports have remained the same throughout the 23 editions, such as speed skating, ski jumping or curling, one of the most curious disciplines in the Winter Olympics that counts with millions of supporters in the Nordic Countries.
However, new sports have also appeared, like snowboard, ski with acrobatics or “luge” sledding, where the athlete slides through an ice track reaching speeds of up to 87 mph.
The technological developments and new materials have transformed competition. We have gone from wooden skis fastened with leather straps to fully-aerodinamically designed boards made of carbon fiber.
For the 2018 PyeongChang games, the tech company Samsung has developed its SmartSuits that collects data on speed and position of skaters on the rink and so improve their performance.
Racing brand D-Air has created a wearable airbag to protect ski racers gliding downhill.