February 4, 2010

Publisher’s Corner – Let the Games Begin!

Graham, EloiseBy Eloise Graham

The winter games, that is.

The Olympic Winter Games this February will be in Vancouver, Canada. Opening Ceremony is February 12, 2010. The competition will run for a full two weeks with the closing ceremony being held on February 28, 2010. The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Torch Relay began on October 30th in Victoria, British Columbia. The Olympic Flame was lit in Olympia, Greece on October 22. The Torch Relay will end in Vancouver, Canada on February 12th at the Opening Ceremony.

What are the Winter Olympic Games? They are a winter multi-sport event held every four years. They feature winter sports held on snow or ice, such as Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating,
bobsledding and ice hockey. Cross-country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, Nordic combined, ski jumping, and speed skating. these events have been competed at every Winter Olympics since 1924. Other athletic events have been added as the Games have progressed. Some of these events, such as luge, short track speed skating, and freestyle skiing have earned a permanent spot on the Olympic program. Others, like speed skiing, bandy, and skijöring have been demonstration sports but never incorporated officially as an Olympic sport.

What is the history of the Winter Games? The first international multi-sport event specifically for winter sports were the Nordic Games, held in 1901 in Sweden. They were held again in 1903, again in 1905, and then every four years there-after until 1926. An Italian count Eugenio Brunetta d’Usseaux proposed that the IOC stage a week with winter sports as part of the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm. The organizers opposed this idea, their reasoning was two-fold: they desired to protect the integrity of the Nordic Games; and they were concerned about a lack of facilities that could accommodate winter sports. The idea was resurrected for the 1916 Games, which were to be held in Berlin. A winter sports week with speed skating, figure skating, ice hockey and Nordic skiing was planned, but the 1916 Olympics were cancelled after the outbreak of World War I.

The first Olympics after the war, the 1920 Games in Antwerp featured figure skating with the addition of ice hockey. At the IOC Congress held the following year, it was decided that the organizers of the 1924 Summer Olympics, France, would also host a separate “International Winter Sports Week,” under the patronage of the IOC. This “week” (it actually lasted 11 days) of events in Chamonix proved to be a great success. Prior to this, figure skating and ice hockey had been events at the Summer Olympics. In 1925 the IOC decided to create a separate Olympic Winter Games, and the 1924 Games in Chamonix were retroactively designated as the first Winter Olympics.

The second Winter Olympic games was hosted by St. Moritz. The next Winter Olympics was the first to be hosted outside of Europe. Fewer athletes participated than in 1928, as the journey to Lake Placid, United States, was a long and expensive one for most competitors, and there was little money for sports in the midst of the Great Depression. These Games were also marred by warm weather. Virtually no snow fell for two months preceding the Games. It was not until mid-January that there was enough snow to hold all the events. 1936 marked the last year that the Summer and Winter Olympics were held in the same country. Alpine skiing made its Olympic debut in Germany, but skiing teachers were barred from entering because they were considered to be professionals. This decision caused the Swiss and Austrian skiers to refuse to compete in the Olympics.

The Second World War interrupted the celebration of the Winter Olympics. The 1940 Winter Olympics had originally been awarded to Sapporo, Japan, but was rescinded in 1938, because of the Japanese invasion of China in the Sino-Japanese War. Subsequently, St. Moritz, Switzerland, was chosen by the IOC to host the Games, but three months later the IOC withdrew St. Moritz from the Games, because of quarrels with the Swiss organizing team. Both Summer and Winter Olympics were cancelled in their entirety in November 1939 following Germany’s invasion of Poland. The 1944 Winter Olympics, scheduled to take place in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, were cancelled in the Summer of 1941, due to the continuing World War.

The IOC selected the Swiss town of St. Moritz to host the first post-war Games in 1948. St. Moritz was untouched by World War II because of Switzerland’s neutrality. Since most of the venues were already
constructed for the 1928 Games it was a logical choice to become the first city to host a Winter Olympics twice

The city of Oslo, Norway, was selected to host the 1952 Winter Olympics. After not being able to host the Games in 1944 due to the War, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, was selected to organize the 1956 Winter Olympics. The IOC awarded the 1960 Olympics to Squaw Valley, United States. The Tyrolean city of Innsbruck was the host in 1964. Despite being a traditional winter sports resort, warm weather caused a lack of snow during the Games and the Austrian army was called in to bring snow and ice to the sport venues.

Held in the French town of Grenoble, the 1968 Winter Olympics was the first Olympic Games to be broadcast in color. The organizing committee sold the television rights for $2 million, a significant increase over the price of the broadcast rights for the Innsbruck Games.The 1972 Winter Games, held in Sapporo, Japan, were the first to be hosted outside North America or Europe.Originally, the 1976 Winter Games had been awarded to Denver, United States, but in 1972 the voters of Colorado expressed unwillingness to host the Games through a state referendum. Innsbruck, which still had maintained the infrastructure from the 1964 Games, was chosen in 1973 to replace Denver.The Olympic Winter Games returned to Lake Placid, which had hosted the 1932 Games.

The cities of Sapporo, Japan, and Gotheburg, Sweden, were front-runners to host the 1984 Winter Olympics. It was therefore a surprise when Sarajevo, Yugoslavia was chosen to host the Games. The Games were well-organized and displayed no indication of the war that would soon engulf the country. In 1988 the Canadian city of Calgary, hosted the first Winter Olympics to span 16 days. The 1992 Games were the last to be held in the same year as the Summer Games. The 1998 Winter Olympics was the first Games to host more than 2,000 athletes.The Games were held in the Japanese city of Nagano. The 19th Olympic Winter Games were held in Salt Lake City, United States in 2002. The Italian city of Turin hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics. It was the second time that Italy held the Winter Olympic Games. Now it is time for the 2010 Games in Canada.

Winter Games in the home

I don’t know about you, but I have had enough snow and ice. I am sure I will watch some of the Olympics, but it will be in an easy chair! As for me, I think of other winter games. Maybe a jig-saw puzzle on a nice big table in front of a roaring fire.

There are many board games that can be played with two to eight people. Yahtzee is a favorite with my grandchildren. It is a game that can be played with a few or many players and can accommodate varying ages. Scattergories is another fun one. Some games require a little dexterity also. Check out the game section at the toy store and see all that is available. A trivia night is fun. Either in your own home (or a friend’s) with the Trivial Pursuit board game, or as a group endeavor for a fund-raiser. Many groups hold these on a regular basis. Plan your own “Game Night.” Research shows that games keep the mind active, so plan a creative and social evening to keep that gray-matter working.

Have fun with the games – and don’t let the games end!