Many Olympic “firsts” in Sochi
The first new events – snowboard slopestyle and the figure skating team competition – were already a huge success in Sochi. Biathlon mixed relay, luge team relay, ski halfpipe, ski slopestyle, snowboard parallel slalom and women’s ski jumping will get their turn in the spotlight in the coming days. The inclusion of so-called ‘action’ events, such as ski and snowboard slopestyle, highlighted the IOC’s desire to appeal to the youth of the world.
The winner of the first ever Olympic gold medal in men’s snowboard slopestyle, Sage Kotsenburg, said he and the other athletes were thrilled to compete on the Olympic stage.
“We are all stoked to be in the Olympics. The Olympics are the biggest event for slopestyle and halfpipe in history.” About the special experience of living in the Olympic Village, he said: “Life in the villages is awesome. There are so many countries and cultures in one place.”
A dynamic Olympic programme
The Olympic programme is designed to strike a balance between traditional sports and new events. While cross-country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, nordic combined, ski jumping and speed skating have been held at every edition of the Winter Games, the rest of the programme has seen many changes since the first edition in 1924.
The number of events has increased significantly over the decades. Whereas 16 medals were awarded in six sports and nine disciplines at the inaugural edition in Chamonix, the Sochi Games will feature a record 98 events in 15 disciplines across seven sports.
Curling, for instance, was contested in Chamonix in 1924, but then did not feature as an official sport at the Games again until 1998. Bobsleigh, meanwhile, was staged at every Games between 1924 and 1956, but did not reappear on the programme again until 1964.
Alpine skiing events were not held until the 1936 Winter Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, while biathlon was first held in 1960 and luge was added in 1964.
The modern era
Some of the biggest changes to the programme came in 1992, when short-track speed skating and freestyle skiing events were first held. Since then, both disciplines have added events to the programme, with eight short-track events due to be held in Sochi, compared with four in 1992, and 10 freestyle skiing events set to be contested, compared with just two in 1992.
In 1998, the Games in Nagano saw change to the Olympic programme once again with the introduction of snowboarding, while skeleton – which featured in the 1928 and 1948 editions of the Games – re-joined the programme in Salt Lake City in 2002. Sage said watching the 2002 Games inspired him to pursue his own Olympic dream.
The constant evolution of the programme has helped broaden the appeal of the Games, and the IOC systematically reviews the composition of the sports programme after each edition of the Games to ensure that it continues to be relevant and meet the expectations of future sporting generations.