The first Olympic Winter Games began almost a century ago in Chamonix, France in 1924. Taking inspiration from the Nordic Games, the Winter Olympics featured popular events such as downhill skiing, hockey, ice skating, and curling. That’s right, professional ice-sweepers have been with us since the beginning. Since then, the number of events has exploded in size and new sports such as snowboarding and luge have joined the ranks.
Because of the international competitiveness, many events have seen dramatic changes in the strategies and gear that the Olympic teams rely on to win. At the same time, cities that have hosted the Winter Olympics have used the world stage as an opportunity to show off and grow their tourist economies. As a result, photos taken of the Winter Olympics over the last century make for a fascinating study of the history of sports culture and globalism. Also of brooms.
The Dutch curling team at the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France.
American speed skater Jack Shea won gold in two speed-skating events at the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY. Shea had a son and a grandson who both won Winter Olympic gold.
Norwegian figure skater Sonja Henie competed in the 1924 Winter Olympics at the age of eight. By 1937, she had three gold medals, won countless other European championships, and begun a successful acting career in Hollywood.
American figure skater Richard Button won his first gold in 1948 while a freshman at Harvard. He came back four years later to win his second at the 1952 games in Oslo.
Norwegian Alpine ski racer Stein Eriksen took home the gold and a silver in 1952. Afterwards, he moved to the US, where he taught lessons at the nation’s most premier resorts in Colorado, Utah, Vermont and California.
American figure skating pair Lucille Ash and Sully Kothman didn’t win any medals at the 1956 games in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, but were among the last Olympic figure skaters to compete outdoors.
The 1984 Winter Olympics took place in Sarajevo, eight years before the breakout of the Bosnian War. Despite record-breaking performances, this event is best remembered for its venues falling into disrepair soon after.
Germany’s Katja Seizinger won her first gold medal in downhill skiing at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. She successfully defended her title in 1998 and won an additional gold in combined skiing.
Salt Lake City went all-out for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Not only did they decorate their entire downtown with the faces of Olympians, they also booked George W. Bush as the first sitting US President to open the games.
While the Olympic events continue to grow in number and change with the times, curling remains the one event that requires a broomstick. Norwegian Martin Sesaker displayed his skills with an updated broom and stone at the 2012 Youth Winter Olympics.
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