The Winter Olympics turn 100!

2024 marks an exciting anniversary for the Olympic Committee. Exactly 100 years ago today—on January 25, 1924—the first Winter Olympics began.

1924 Winter Olympics Poster
1924 Winter Olympics Poster / Heritage Images/GettyImages
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Although we are heading into a traditional Olympics year, 2024 marks an exciting anniversary for the Olympic Committee. Exactly 100 years ago today—on January 25, 1924—the first Winter Olympics began.

At the time, the Winter Olympics took place in the same year as the traditional Olympic Games, though frequently in a different location and time of year. Though there won't be another Winter Olympic tournament until 2026, we can expect to see an acknowledgment of this anniversary during the Olympic celebrations in July.

Billy Wright - Soccer Player - Wolverhampton Wanderers, Henry Cooper - Boxer, Scobie Breasley, Bobby Moore
Olympics Fundraising Show / C. Maher/GettyImages

Why were the Winter Olympics introduced?

While the Olympics were intended as a way to create friendly competition and celebrate the accomplishments of countries around the world, the events they offered tended to favor the countries with warmer climates. This makes sense, since it was derived from the ancient Greek version, but it made it hard for northern countries to show off their own skills.

The Olympics occasionally featured winter sports, but their inclusion tended to be sporadic. For those who wanted to compete in these fields, they had to explore other competitions.

One major predecessor was the Nordic Games, which had been founded by Viktor Balck, a member of the International Olympic Committee. These games were held approximately every four years, but they were really only intended for Scandinavian countries.

After the end of World War I, the Olympics were more important than ever. To try to include more allied countries, the IOC decided that the host country for the standard Olympics would also feature an "International Winter Sports Week."

The 1924 Olympics (like the upcoming 2024 Olympics) were set to take place in Paris, France, and what would eventually be called the first Winter Olympics was set in Chamonix. It would be such a success that the Winter Olympics became a regular part of the international sports world, far surpassing the popularity and scale of the Nordic Games.

What sports were included (And who won)?

In the first Winter Olympics, teams competed in five sports: bobsleighing, curling, ice hockey, skating, and Nordic skiing. In addition, there was an award for Alpinism, despite the fact that there was no competition for it. Those sports, and their respective events and winners, are noted below.

Alexander Richardson, Ralph Broome, Rodney Soher, Thomas Arnold
British Four-Man Bob / Topical Press Agency/GettyImages

Bobsleigh

For the bobsleigh sport, there was only one competition: the Four-Man Bobsleigh. 11 countries competed, but only six completed the course.

Awards went to:

  • Gold: Switzerland
  • Silver: United Kingdom
  • Bronze: Belgium
Curling Team
Curling Team / Topical Press Agency/GettyImages

Curling

The Curling event only had four countries sign up to compete, and one (Switzerland) ended up not being able to compete. Thus, the remaining three countries won the top medals.

  • Gold: United Kingdom
  • Silver: Sweden
  • Bronze: France
Olympic Ice Hockey Final
Olympic Ice Hockey Final / Topical Press Agency/GettyImages

Ice Hockey

Eight teams competed in the ice hockey competition, with a shockingly high rate of success for the English-speaking countries.

Awards went to:

  • Gold: Canada
  • Silver: United States
  • Bronze: United Kingdom
Herma Planck-Szabo
Herma Planck-Szabo / Topical Press Agency/GettyImages

Skating

The skating competitions included eight events, broken down into two categories: figure skating and speed skating. Under figure skating, there were competitions in Individual Men, Individual Women, and Pairs Mixed. This was the only sport in the Winter Olympics that included women.

The figure skating awards went to:

Men's Individual

  • Gold: Gillis Grafström (Sweden)
  • Silver: Willy Böckl (Austria)
  • Bronze: Georges Gautschi (Switzerland)

Women's Individual

  • Gold: Herma Planck-Szabo (Austria)
  • Silver: Beatrix Loughran (United States)
  • Bronze: Ethel Muckelt (United Kingdom)

Pairs Mixed

  • Gold: Engelmann / Berger (Austria)
  • Silver: Jakobsson-Eilers / Jakobsson (Finland)
  • Bronze: Brunet / Brunet (France)

Under the speed skating category, there were four events, as well as an award across all events. However, we don't have the records for one of the events.

The known speed skating awards went to:

10,000 meters

  • Gold: Julius Skutnabb (Finland)
  • Silver: Clas Thunberg (Finland)
  • Bronze: Roald Larsen (Norway)

1,500 meters

  • Gold: Charles Jewtraw (United States)
  • Silver: Oskar Olsen (Norway)
  • Bronze: TIE Clas Thunberg (Finland) and Roald Larsen (Norway)

5,000 meters

  • Gold: Clas Thunberg (Finland)
  • Silver: Julius Skutnabb (Finland)
  • Bronze: Roald Larsen (Norway)

Speed Skating Combined

  • Gold: Clas Thunberg (Finland)
  • Silver: Roald Larsen (Norway)
  • Bronze: Julius Skutnabb (Finland)
Jacob Tullin Thams
1924 Winter Olympics - Ski Jump / Topical Press Agency/GettyImages

Nordic Skiing

For the Nordic Skiing category, there were four competitions and five awards, as there was an award for achievement across events.

Military Patrol

  • Gold: Switzerland
  • Silver: Finland
  • Bronze: France

Cross-Country Skiing: 18 km

  • Gold: Thorleif Haug (Norway)
  • Silver: Johan Grøttumsbråten (Norway)
  • Bronze: Tapani Niku (Finland)

Cross-Country Skiing: 50 km

  • Gold: Thorleif Haug (Norway)
  • Silver: Thoralf Strömstad (Norway)
  • Bronze: Johan Grøttumsbråten (Norway)

Ski Jumping

  • Gold: Jacob Tullin Thams (Norway)
  • Silver: Narve Bonna (Norway)
  • Bronze: Anders Haugen (United States)

Nordic Combined

  • Gold: Thorleif Haug (Norway)
  • Silver: Thoralf Strömstad (Norway)
  • Bronze: Johan Grøttumsbråten (Norway)
NEPAL-MOUNTAINEERING-EVEREST
NEPAL-MOUNTAINEERING-EVEREST / LAKPA SHERPA/GettyImages

Alpinism

While there was no competition for alpinism, there was a winner. Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Lisle Strutt was awarded for leading an attempt to climb Mt. Everest. He went on to be the President of the Alpine Club in 1935.

Harry Watson, Bert McCaffrey, Harold McMunn, Beattie Ramsey, Cyril Slater, Dunc Munro, Hooley Smith, Jack Cameron
1924 Winter Olympics - Men's Ice Hockey / Topical Press Agency/GettyImages

What countries participated in the first Winter Olympics?

16 countries participated in the 1924 Winter Olympics, exclusively from Europe and North America. Because of their part in World War I, Germany was not allowed to compete.

The countries involved included:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Czechoslovakia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Great Britain / United Kingdom
  • Hungary
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United States
  • Yugoslavia
OLY1924-FRANCE-OLYMPIC GAMES 1924
OLY1924-FRANCE-OLYMPIC GAMES 1924 / -/GettyImages

Trivia from the first Winter Olympics

Who won the first medal?

Charles Jewtraw (United States) won the first gold medal, in the 500 meter speed skating event.

Who won the most medals?

Clas Thunberg (Sweden) won 3 gold medals, 1 silver, and 1 bronze.

What country won the most medals?

Norway. They earned 4 gold medals, 7 silver medals, and 6 bronze medals.


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