The history of the Winter Olympics started 90 years ago in Chamonix, France, which in 1924 hosted a Week of Winter Sports on the occasion of the 7th Olympics. The project was a success, and in 1925 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made a decision to officially declare the Week as the first Winter Olympics. At first the summer and winter games took place in the same year, but starting from 1994 they have been held with two year-intervals. So far there have been 21 Winter Olympics, including four in the United States, two in Japan, two in Canada, and the others in Europe. Russia is hosting the Winter Olympics for the first time.
Taking part in the Chamonix Olympics in 1924 were 258 athletes from 16 countries. The previous Olympics in Vancouver in 2010 gathered 2,776 athletes from 82 countries.
The original schedule of the first Games consisted of nine disciplines – ice hockey, curling, bobsleigh, speed skating, ski races, military patrol (the then name of today’s biathlon), ski jumping and also figure skating – the sole winter sport in which women athletes participated. With the passage of time some disciplines were removed from the Olympic schedule to be replaced with new ones. In 1928 biathlon was excluded from the Winter Olympics program till 1960, and curling, till 1998; in 1936 Alpine skiing became an Olympic sport, downhill and slalom were added in 1948, luge, in 1964, and ice dancing, in 1976. In 1998 the Olympics schedule was complemented with new Alpine skiing disciplines – super-giant slalom and Alpine skiing combined, and in 1992, with freestyle and short-track. The program of the Sochi 2014 winter Olympics includes seven sports (15 disciplines) – three skating disciplines, six skiing disciplines, two bobsleigh disciplines and four separate sports (curling, biathlon, ice hockey, and luge).
One-third of the winter Olympics were held in adverse weather conditions. Sudden heavy rains greatly complicated skiing competitions in Chamonix in 1924, and in Lake Placid in 1932 spoiled track postponed bobsleighing competitions till after the official closing ceremony of the Games.
These sad experiences forced the hosts of all Winter Olympics that followed to seek ways of addressing weather-related issues. For the Squaw Valley Olympics in 1960 the United States built an indoor winter stadium and laid a 400-meter artificial ice track. At the 1964 Games in Innsbruck (Austria), faced with the risk of disruption following a sharp rise in temperature, the organizers had to bring about 20 tonnes of snow from the mountains. For the 1998 Calgary Olympics Canada built a special bobsleigh track equipped with refrigerator units that kept ice in good condition even at air temperatures as high as 20 degrees above zero Celsius. In Canada’s Vancouver in 2010 air temperatures climbed to above 10 degrees above zero, so the organizers had to employ helicopters and trucks to bring snow from northern provinces.