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Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 10:59 GMT

How the Winter Games were born


Quiz question: In what year were the first World Championships of any sport held?

The answer is 1893, the sport was speed skating, and that event was the first step towards the birth of the Winter Olympics.

A World Championships of figure skating followed in 1896 - the same year as the first modern Summer Olympics were held in Chamonix, France.

By 1908 figure skating had been included in the Summer Olympics and from there it seemed a matter of time before winter sports got their own Games, which arrived in 1924.

That event, also in Chamonix, was not given Olympic status at first because the Scandinavian countries wanted to protect their Nordic Games.


Instead it was titled "International Sports Week 1924" but two years later was retrospectively recognized as the first Olympic Winter Games.

Those inaugral Winter Olympics had attracted 294 athletes from 16 nations who took part in 14 events.

American Charles Jewtraw was the first Winter Games gold medallist, in the men's 500m speed skating event.

The 1928 Winter Olympics in St Moritz, Switzerland, attracted an 84 percent increase in participants.

Norwegian Sonja Henie, then just 15, won the first of her three Olympic gold medals there.

At the 1932 Lake Placid Games, Eddie Eagan made history.

Britain cause stir

The gold medallist for light heavyweight boxing in 1920, he was part of the victorious American four-man bobsled team 12 years later and so became the first man to win Summer and Winter golds.

At the 1936 Olympic Winter Games in Germany, Britain caused a stir by winning the men's ice hockey, albeit with a team largely made up of Anglo-Canadians.

The Winter Games were cancelled in 1940 and 1944 due to World War II and returned in 1948 in St. Moritz.

Ice hockey was again the centre of attention when the US Olympic Association and the Amateur Hockey Association both sent teams.

A row which threatened to cause the cancellation of the ice hockey event proved academic as the Canadians took gold ahead of Czechoslovakia and Switzerland.

Weight limit

Norway - who had topped the medals table four times out of five - finally got a chance to host the Winter Games in 1952.

In Oslo Andreas Ostler and Lorenz Nieberl, a German pair who weighed more than 500 pounds combined, won the bobsled and caused a maximum team weight limit to be imposed in future.

Canada again won gold in hockey and Norway again won the most medals.

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