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9 Things You Should Know About the Winter Olympics

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The 2018 Winter Olympic officially starts tomorrow in Pyeongchang County, South Korea. (See also: 5 Christian Athletes to Watch in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.) Here are nine things you should know about the world’s leading international winter sports event:

1. The original ancient Olympic Games were dedicated to the Olympian gods (especially Zeus and Hera) and held in Olympia, in southern Greece. The first games are believed to have been held in 776 BC. During this time, Jeroboam was king of the northern kingdom of Israel and Azariah was king of Judah (2 Kings 15:1). It was the era of the prophet Jonah and about a year before the birth of the prophet Isaiah.

2. The idea of reviving the modern Olympic Games came to Pierre de Coubertin, a French aristocrat and educator, in 1889. Coubertin proposed the idea at a conference on international sport in Paris in June 1894, and it was unanimously approved by the nine participating countries. His efforts led to the establishment of the International Olympic Committee and the organization of the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. He also helped launch the Winter Olympics in 1924. He would later say, “Thanks to the Olympic Winter Games . . . the winter sports became an integral part of the Olympic Games. Since 1884 this possibility was taken into consideration and partly realized. And why not? The top of the Mount Olympus is covered with snow, isn’t it?”

3. In 1901 Viktor Balck, a Swedish army general, started the Nordic Games, a precursor to the Winter Olympics. Balck was a close friend of Coubertin and one of the original members of the International Olympic Committee. This event was the first international multi-sport competition that focused solely on winter sports. The first Winter Olympics was held in Chamonix, France, in 1924. It was so popular that the Nordic Games were discontinued two years later.

4. The Winter Olympics has been hosted on three continents by eleven different countries. The Games have been held four times in the United States (1932, 1960, 1980, 2002); three times in France (1924, 1968, 1992); twice in Austria (1964, 1976), Canada (1988, 2010), Japan (1972, 1998), Italy (1956, 2006), Norway (1952, 1994), and Switzerland (1928, 1948); and once in Germany (1936), Yugoslavia (1984), and Russia (2014). Pyeongchang, South Korea, will host the 2018 Winter Olympics and Beijing, China, will host in 2022. Because the event is held in February, when it is summer in the southern hemisphere, no city below the equator has ever hosted the games.

5. The Winter Olympics is limited to “winter sports,” which the Olympic Charter defines as “only those sports which are practiced on snow or ice.” The list of winter sports currently includes 102 events in 15 categories: alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsleigh, cross country skiing, curling, figure skating, freestyle skiing, ice hockey, luge, Nordic combined, short track speed skating, skeleton, ski jumping, snowboard, and speed skating.

6. Since 1924, 136 athletes have competed in both the summer and winter Olympic games, and only five won medals in both. American Eddie Eagan is the only person to ever win gold medals in both the Winter and Summer Olympics: He won in boxing at the 1920 Antwerp Games and in four-man bobsled at the 1932 Lake Placid Games. Jeroen Straathof of the Netherlands is the only athlete to have ever competed in the Winter Olympics, the Summer Olympics, and the Paralympics. Although he is not handicapped himself, Straathof joined with a visually impaired cyclist for a tandem bike race at the 2000 Summer Paralympics.

7. During the 1988 Winter Olympics, the Jamaican national bobsleigh team became the first to represent a tropical nation in an international winter sports competition. This year, an African nation where it has never snowed will be represented for the first time ever in the sport at the Winter Olympics. Three women from Nigeria—Seun Adigun, Akuoma Omeoga, and Ngozi Onwumere—will be competing in the women’s bobsled competition. Another female Nigerian athlete, Simidele Adeagbo, has also qualified to compete in the skeleton event, and Akwasi Frimpong of Ghana will be competing in the men’s skeleton event.

8. The International Olympic Committee announced in December 2017 that it was barring Russia’s national Olympic committee from this year’s Winter Olympics as a punishment for its alleged state-sponsored cover-up of doping by its athletes. The last Winter Olympics (2014) was held in Sochi, Russia, and the Russians originally won the most medals with a total of 33. But because of the doping scandal, the Olympic committee decided last year to strip 13 of those athletes of their medals, dropping Russia to fifth in the medal count.

9. South Korea, which hosted the Summer Olympics in 1988, is hosting the Winter Olympics for the first time in Pyeongchang County. To distinguish itself from North Korea’s capital city, Pyeongyang, the city has opted to capitalize the ‘c’ in its name, making it PyeongChang. (Concern about the confusion is not unwarranted. In 2014, Daniel Olomae Ole Sapit, a 42-year-old representative for a tribe in Kenya, was invited to attend a United Nations conference in Pyeongchang but instead went to Pyongyang. “Pyongyang and Pyeongchang,” Sapit said. “For an African, who can tell the difference?”)

Other posts in this series:

The ‘Mississippi Burning’ Murders •  Events and Discoveries in 2017 • Christmas Traditions • Sexual Misconduct • Lutheranism • Jewish High Holy Days • Nation of Islam • Slave Trade • Solar Eclipses • Alcohol Abuse in America • History of the Homeschooling Movement • Eugenics • North Korea • Ramadan • Black Hebrew Israelites • Neil Gorsuch and Supreme Court Confirmations • International Women’s Day • Health Effects of Marijuana • J. R. R. Tolkien • Aleppo and the Syrian Crisis • Fidel Castro • C.S. Lewis • ESV Bible • Alzheimer’s Disease •  Mother Teresa • The Opioid Epidemic • The Olympic Games • Physician-Assisted Suicide • Nuclear Weapons • China’s Cultural Revolution • Jehovah’s Witnesses • Harriet Tubman • Autism • Seventh-day Adventism • Justice Antonin Scalia (1936–2016) • Female Genital Mutilation • Orphans • Pastors • Global Persecution of Christians (2015 Edition) • Global Hunger • National Hispanic Heritage Month • Pope Francis • Refugees in America • Confederate Flag Controversy • Elisabeth Elliot • Animal Fighting • Mental Health • Prayer in the Bible • Same-sex Marriage • Genocide • Church Architecture • Auschwitz and Nazi Extermination Camps • Boko Haram • Adoption • Military Chaplains • Atheism • Intimate Partner Violence • Rabbinic Judaism • Hamas • Male Body Image Issues • Mormonism • Islam • Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence • Anglicanism • Transgenderism • Southern Baptist Convention • Surrogacy • John Calvin • The Rwandan Genocide • The Chronicles of Narnia • The Story of Noah • Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church • Pimps and Sex Traffickers • Marriage in America • Black History Month • The Holocaust • Roe v. Wade • Poverty in America • Christmas • The Hobbit • Council of Trent • Halloween and Reformation Day • Casinos and Gambling • Prison Rape • 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing • Chemical Weapons • March on Washington • Duck Dynasty • Child Brides • Human Trafficking • Scopes Monkey Trial • Social Media • Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Cases • The Bible • Human Cloning • Pornography and the Brain • Planned Parenthood • Boston Marathon Bombing • Female Body Image Issues • Islamic State

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