Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

With all the excitement surrounding the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, many are reflecting on the first winter Olympic games. Many have questions about the first winter games like, where & when was the first winter Olympics held? How many countries participated in the first winter Olympics? And how many athletes participated in the first winter Olympics? Included below are interesting facts from the first winter Olympic games and more. 

Where & When Was the First Winter Olympics Held?

Initially, the games were called “Winter Sports Week” and later became known as I Olympic Winter Games. The First ever winter Olympic games were held in Chamonix, France, in 1924. The games lasted a total of 12 days, which were from January 25, 1924 to February 5, 1924.

These Winter Olympic Games were associated with the summer winter games, which took place in Paris, France, in July of the same year. This tradition of both the summer and winter games occurring in the same year lasted until 1992. Now, the tradition is that the games occur every two years, with the winter and summer games alternating.

How Many Countries Participated in the First Winter Olympics?

In the very first winter Olympics games there were a total of 16 countries that competed in the games. Below is a list of countries that participated in the games:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Czechoslovakia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Great Britain
  • Hungary
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United States
  • Yugoslavia

Germany would have brought the country count to 17; however, they were banned from the 1924 winter Olympics because of World War I.  Rather than missing out on the games, Germany hosted its own version of the winter Olympics, which was referred to as Deutsche Kampfspiele.

How Many Events Were in the First Winter Olympics?

The first winter Olympic games had a total of 16 events, which also means that there were 16 gold medals handed to the winning individual(s) or team(s) in their respected event. There were five different sports that took place at the first winter Olympics, which are listed below:

  • Bobsleigh
  • Curling
  • Ice Hockey
  • Skating
  • Nordic Skiing

Also, there were nine different sporting events that were held at the very first Olympic games, which are listed below:

  • Bobsleigh
  • Curling
  • Ice Hockey
  • Figure Skating
  • Speed Skating
  • Military Patrol
  • Cross Country Skiing
  • Nordic Combined
  • Ski Jumping

How Many Athletes Participated in the First Winter Olympics?

There was a total of 258 athletes who participated in the very first winter Olympics from the 16 countries that were being represented.

Top 5 Country Medal Winners

Below is a table with the top five ranked countries in the 1924 winter Olympics.

Country Number of Gold MedalsNumber of Silver Medals Number of Bronze Medals
United States121


Interesting Facts About the First Winter Olympic Games

First Winter Olympic Games: It was not until 1926 that “Winter Sports Week” was recognized as the first “Winter Olympics.” This occurred during the 25th International Committee meeting in Lisbon.

The First Goal Medal: On day two of the 1924 Winter Olympic games, Charles Jewtraw of the United States won the gold medal in 500-meter speed skating.

Medals Awarded Too Late: The medal presentations took place shortly before the closing ceremonies on February 5, 1924. In some cases, athletes had left to go back home, and their medals were given to their fellow countrymen or woman.

Canada Dominated Hockey: Canada is known for a few things around the world, one of which is having a strong hockey team. In the very first Olympic games, team Canada caused fear to their opponents. They scored 85 goals without letting their opponent score one! Once everything was settled, team Canada scored a total of 122 goals and only surrendered three.

Opening Ceremonies Uniqueness: There were many athletes that carried their sports equipment on their shoulders, which included: skis, hockey stocks, skates, etc. Players that marched with their sports equipment were actually following a rule that was in place in 1924.

Total Attendance: A total of 10,004 spectators paid to watch the first winter Olympics in person.

No Lighting of the Flame: The first lighting of the torch event took place in 1936, which resulted in there being no torch lighting at the very first Olympic games.

No Olympic Oath: There was no Olympic oath at the first winter Olympics because the official Olympic oath came into effect in 1972.

France Had Zero Gold Medals: As the host country, France only won three bronze medals and was ranked ninth in total medal standings.

Well, we’ve certainly come a long way from the first winter Olympics, which occurred nearly a century ago! From the number of athletes and countries participating, to the rules and the addition of many new sports, the winter Olympics have steadily increased in popularity over the years.

This year, we’re seeing a wave of bright, young athletes in Pyeongchang, South Korea—many of whom will make history and be remembered in the years to come. (Who knows how much the winter Olympics will have changed by then!)