The Winter Olympic Games
As a direct result of the success of the modern-day Summer Olympics, or Games of the Olympiad, that began in 1896, the Winter Olympics was launched in 1924. Rather than the summer sports that its sister Games focus on, these events feature winter disciplines that are practiced on ice and snow.
The first Winter Games were held in Chamonix in France, with 5 sports that were broken into 9 disciplines. These included bobsleigh, curling and ice hockey. Nordic skiing, with the sub-categories of military patrol, cross-country skiing, ski jumping and Nordic combined, and skating, which included figure and speed skating, made up the rest of the programme. The Games have been held every 4 years since then, with a hiatus from 1936 to 1948 because of the Second World War.
Evolutions over Time
Since its inception, the Winter Olympics has evolved quite considerably. The Winter and Summer Games were held in the same year until 1992, when a 1986 decision by the International Olympic Committee that governs both games was enforced and the 2 events were placed on separate 4-year cycles. This meant that there was a 2-year gap between 2 rounds of Winter Games, and the next events were held in 1994, after which the usual 4-year rhythm returned.
The Games programme has also developed over the years. Certain sports have been made permanent fixtures of the event, such as luge, Alpine skiing, short track speed skating, skeleton, freestyle and snowboarding. Others, such as bobsleigh and curling that were part of the original line-up, have been discontinued only to be reintroduced later, or have been permanently discontinued as in the case of military patrol.
As television became a global communication medium and brought the Winter Olympics into the lives of more people, a major revenue stream for the International Olympics Committee was created. The sales of advertising and broadcast rights have proven incredibly lucrative and have bolstered the International Committee, but have also left it open to outside influence and criticisms. In addition, doping scandals and carious political boycotts have created major issues for the Committee to deal with and nations have also used the Games as a platform to showcase their political policies and how superior that believe they are. Overall, however, the Winter Games are seen as thrilling and hopeful event, appealing to people to connect with others through excellence in sporting competition.
The Winter Olympics Today
The Games currently feature 15 sporting events, and have been hosted by 11 different countries over 3 countries. No country in the Southern Hemisphere had ever applied to host the Winter Games, and they are rather under-represented in the medal counts, because a colder climate is required to provide the right conditions to practice and compete. With the Games traditionally held in February, which is the middle of summer in the Southern Hemisphere, this is an even bigger obstacle. In fact, Beijing will make history in 2022 when it hosts the Winter Games as the first city to ever host both the Summer and the Winter Olympics. The Winter Paralympics are staged in the same venues, very shortly after the Winter Games are finished, so all facilities are suited to players and spectators of varying ability levels. This adds to the feelings of inclusiveness and camaraderie that the Games try to foster.