This winter Chamonix celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first ever Winter Olympic Games, which took place in January 1924.
Chamonix was the obvious choice for these first Games thanks to its history as an international alpine destination. Mountaineers from across the world had already been coming to the valley for centuries to push themselves to their limits at altitude.
No Alpine ski racing
It was on 25 January 1924, that Gaston Vidal, the under-secretary of state, formally declared the Games open, but the original event was very different from what we know of the Winter Olympics today.
For a start there was no Alpine ski racing. The only six sports that featured were bobsleigh, curling, ice hockey, Nordic skiing (the only skiing that counted in those days), figure skating and ski jumping.
Just 300 athletes from 16 countries
At Beijing in 2022, almost 3000 athletes from 91 countries toom part in the XXIV Olympic Winter Games. But a century ago, just three hundred athletes from only 16 countries gathered for the opening ceremony.
In alphabetical order the attending countries were:
Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Finland, France, Great Britain, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, the USA and Yugoslavia.
Visit the original locations
The highlight of the Chamonix Winter Games was probably the ski jumping, which took place at the Mont aux Bossons slope and attracted huge crowds. A ski jump exists in the same location and is still occasionally used today.
The bobsleigh course from 1924 is harder to find. You’ll need to take a hike to the forest above Les Pèlerins, where you can still find the remnants of the original track that competitors flew down with scant respect for safety.
The huge ice rink (see photo above) that hosted the ice hockey, figure skating, speed skating and curling, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies, is easier to visualise as it’s on the same spot as the current ice rink and athletics track.
The 1924 Medal Table
Ten of the sixteen nations attending won medals. As at Beijing 2022, it was Norway who topped the table at Chamonix with 17 medals, including four golds.
Britain won four medals, including a gold for the men’s curling team, which represented the best haul until the five medals won at Sochi in 2014.
So good they named it twice…
By the time the flame was extinguished on 05 February 1924, Chamonix had left an indelible mark on the world of winter sports.
So impressive was the event that two years later it was retrospectively renamed from ‘International Winter Sports Week of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc’ to become the 'First Winter Olympic Games'.
Join us for the Kandahar 2024
Since those first games, Chamonix has hosted many international competitions, including the World Ski Championships in 1937 and 1962, as well as around twenty editions of the ‘Kandahar’ Alpine Skiing World Cup races.
Why not join us in Chamonix for the latest edition of the Kandahar, scheduled for February 2024?
For this, or any visit to Chamonix, simply contact the Ski Weekend team on 01392 878 353 and we will be delighted to help find the right accommodation for you and your group.