Monday, February 22, 2010

An Overview of the Winter Olympics

Monday, February 22, 2010

Heard of the Winter Olympic games that are presently ongoing in Vancouver, Canada? Well, maybe not as it isn't as widely recognised as the traditional Summer Olympics in many parts of the world.

Living in Malaysia, I had never watched these games, although I find it intriguing as sports such as speed skating, bobsleighing and ice hockey make for a great spectacle. As a result of that, my inquisitiveness to find out more regarding this games has led me to do a short entry regarding the Winter Olympics and the sports that are featured in it.

As it is, nations that participate in the Winter Olympic are usually nations that undergo the phenomenon of four seasons, where there is snow during winter. Therefore, countries located close to the equator, or where it doesn’t snow, generally wouldn’t participate in these games.

The first Winter Olympic games was initiated in the year 1924, and it has been ongoing at every four year intervals thereafter. Additionally, the Winter Olympics always take place two years after the Summer Olympics.

The growth of the Winter Olympics has seen a meteoric rise in recent years as it has undergone commercialisation. Besides increasing the profile of the games, this has seen it create an alternative income stream in the form of broadcasting and advertising rights.

Interestingly, all of the hosts of the Winter Olympics have so far originated from the Northern Hemisphere. The United States have organised the games four times, whilst nations such as Norway, Japan, Canada, Austria and Switzerland have hosted it twice each.

Now, let us have a look at a few of the sports that have featured prominently in the rooster of the Winter Olympics for the past few editions of the games.


Bobsled is a sport in which a team of two or four make timed runs down banked, narrow and twisting tracks using gravity-powered sleds. It is also known as bobsleigh. This sport evolved from delivery sleds and toboggans. It has featured in all bar one edition of the Olympic Games.

Ice Hockey

Initially an amateur-only affair, Ice Hockey in the Winter Olympics has opened its doors to professional players from the NFL. In the history of the games, the most successful nation has been Canada. However, this sport has been gripped with constant cases of use of banned drugs.

Speed Skating

Speed skating is probably the equivalent to the sprint events in the Summer Olympics. It is carried out over the distances of 500, 1000, 1500, 5000 and 10000 meters respectively. The traditional powerhouse in this event has been the United States.


This sport was only introduced to the Olympics in the year 1992. There are a few disciplines of this sport, mainly downhill racing, known as the giant slalom, half-pipe, where athletes use tricks to showcase their talents and the snowboard cross, where competitors have to overcome numerous obstacles.

Ski Jumping

This is an event that is only reserved for men, although there was a plea to include the women recently. In ski jumping, the competitors are required to jump from a hill, usually between 90 to 120 meters high. The competitor who lands the furthest away from the start-point would be the winner.


Also known as tobogganing, this sport requires athletes to ride a sled down a frozen track while lying face down. It is no doubt a fast paced sport, and athletes are said to overcome forces up to 5 times the force of gravity. It is a dangerous sport as there are no braking mechanisms for these sleds.

There are many other sports in addition to the six sports that have been featured here. Anyways, feel free to share your thoughts regarding the Winter Olympics by dropping a comment below.

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