The 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, have officially begun and many of us will be glued to the television or the Internet for the next few weeks to follow the 98 events in 15 winter sports disciplines. It seems appropriate to take a visual journey through the evolution of the Winter Olympics poster of the last 90 years. The posters (pre-1984) are by and large a selection from our archives and inventory. Enjoy.
The concept of Winter Olympic Games was first introduced in 1924. Following the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Congress decided that France, host of the 1924 summer games, should conduct a separate event for winter sports that same year. The French spa town of Chamonix was chosen to host what was named the “International Winter Sports Week” – the event actually lasted 11 days. The original sports were alpine and cross country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, Nordic combined, ski jumping and speed skating. In 1925, the IOC officially created separate Olympic Winter Games and the 1924 Games in Chamonix were retroactively designated as the first Winter Olympics.
The second Winter Olympic Games were held in the famous winter resort of St. Moritz, Switzerland, drawing participants from 26 countries. These Olympic Games were the first true Winter Olympics as they were not held in conjunction with the Summer Games. The events were plagued by fluctuating weather conditions from the beginning. While the opening ceremony was conducted in a terrible snowstorm, unusually warm weather conditions led to the cancellation of the 10,000 meter speed skating race.
Until 1932, the Olympics had always been held in Europe. For the first time, the venue for both the Winter and Summer Games of 1932 was taken abroad to the United States. The Winter Games were held in the small upstate New York village of Lake Placid. Lake Placid originally did not have a bobsled run and only had a 25-meter ski jump hill. Plans for building new facilities (incl. a 60 meter ski jump) initially helped convince the Olympic Committee to bring the Games to the USA. Due to the worldwide economic depression, only 17 countries attended.
The 1936 Winter Olympics Games were held under the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler. The Games were highly political. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had forbidden Germany to exclude Jews from its Olympic team but in the end only one Jewish athlete, Rudi Ball, participated on Germany’s ice-hockey team.
After a twelve year absence enforced by World War II, the Olympic world returned to Switzerland. St. Moritz was a logical choice as it had remained largely undamaged due to its war neutrality and since all of the 1928 sites were still available for use. Germany and Japan were not invited.
The 1952 Winter Games were held in Scandinavia for the firs time. It marked the debut for the Olympic torch at the Winter Games. After the construction of an indoor ice rink, ice hockey was held indoors at the Olympics the first time.
Cortina d’Ampezzo, originally awarded with the 1944 Winter Olympics, became the host of the seventh Olympic Winter Games. The Soviet Union participated for the first time and was the most successful country with 16 medals.
Before the 1960 Olympic Winter Games, Squaw Valley, California, merely marked the location on a hotel. There were many complains about the hosting site but in the end the Games ran very smoothly. Americans were able to watch the event on live television – a premiere. Opening ceremonies were supervised by Walt Disney.
Innsbruck was the first host to hold events throughout the surrounding region (within a 20 mile/30 km circle from the city center). The electronic age had arrived: computers were used for more accurate scoring and the event was broadcast to a billion television viewers.
After 44 years, the Games returned to France. The Games were initially marked by controversies over athletes’ advertising endorsements: the IOC threatened to ban skiers; the athletes threatened to withdraw from competitions. Eventually, a compromise was reached: the skiers agreed to remove all advertising before being interviewed or photographed.
The eleventh Winter Olympic Games returned to the Orient only eight years after the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. At the time, Sapporo was the largest city to ever host the Winter Games. Commercial endorsements were again at the center of controversy; one Austrian athlete was banned. Canada did not send its ice-hockey team in protest of professionalism by the Soviets.
The 1976 Games were originally awarded to Denver but the city feared excessive spending of public funds on the event and rejected the Olympics. The IOC quickly found a replacement in its former host, Innsbruck. The only real problem seemed to be a lack of snow: the Austrian army was engaged to haul snow from local mountaintops. In the end, a fierce winter storm helped solve the issue just in time for the Games.
Lake Placid hosted the Games for a second time in 1980. But spiraling costs and the complexity of millions of viewers put a severe strain on the small upstate New York town. The IOC declared that it would never again hold the Games at such a small venue.
With the 1984 Winter Olympics, the Games were taken to an Eastern Bloc country for the first time. At the time, the Games showed a record participation of over 1,300 athletes from 49 countries. Participation would grow steadily in the years to come.
57 countries and over 1,400 athletes competed at the first Winter Games to be held in Canada. The Games were extended to 16 days.
1992 marked the last year in which the Winter and Summer Games were held in the same year. The next Winter Olympics were scheduled for 1994 while the next Summer Games were planned for 1996. Due to geo-political upheavals, the Olympics saw several new teams. Germany competed as a single team for the first time since 1936. The Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, also competed for the first time since 1936. The Soviet Union no longer existed and was represented by the “Unified Team,” representing a portion of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
After a mere two year break, the Olympic Winter Games returned to Norway with its new schedule. 67 countries with over 1,700 athletes came to Lillehammer.
26 years after Sapporo, the Games returned again to Japan. A number of new events included snowboarding, curling and women’s ice hockey.
The 19th Olympic Winter Games returned to the United States and included more than 2,400 participants from 79 countries. The Games also saw a record number of 78 events in 15 sports. While marked by several bribery and refereeing controversies during the competitions, the Olypiad was a major success from a business standpoint.
The Games returned to Italy after 50 years. Torino was the largest city to ever host the Winter Olympics. More than 2,500 athletes from 79 nations competed for medals. For the first time, live mobile coverage was available via cell phones.
In 2010, the IOC returned the Winter Games to Canada for the third time. A record 2,577 participants from 82 countries competed at Vancouver. Snowboarder Shaun White referred to the Games as the “Spring Olympics” as January and February of 2010 marked the warmest winter in the history of Vancouver. Snow had to be trucked in to prevent events from being canceled.
2014 will be the first time that the Winter Olympics will be hosted in Russia. Close to 3,000 athletes from 98 countries will be competing with one another. The estimated television audience is 3 billion viewers.
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Sources: www.sports-reference.com and wikipedia.com