Birth of the Olympic Winter Games
Events held on ice, such as figure skating (at London 1908 and Antwerp 1920) and ice hockey (at Antwerp 1920) had already featured at the Games prior to 1924, but IOC President Pierre de Coubertin was a strong advocate for integrating as many winter sports as possible in the Olympic programme, arguing that they should enjoy the same standing as summer sports.
At the seventh Olympic Congress session on 5 June 1921, the idea of establishing a winter version of the Olympic Games was floated by IOC members. Mountainous countries in the western hemisphere came out in favour of the idea, but representatives of the Scandinavian nations sought to block the plan, fearful that this new event would provide serious competition for their own Nordic Games, which had been run successfully since 1901.
At the conclusion of the congress, having looked at both sides of the argument, the IOC agreed to back the organisation of an “international week of winter sport, part of a celebration of the Games of the VIII Olympiad”, which were already scheduled to take place in Paris (FRA) in the summer of 1924.
In June 1922, another congress was held in Paris, attended by members of the international associations and committees that governed winter sports at the time. The competition’s calendar and programme were promptly hammered out, with nine sports selected, namely bobsleigh, Nordic combined, curling, ice hockey, figure skating, speed skating, military patrol (a precursor to the biathlon), ski jumping and cross-country skiing.
After bringing the rules into line with the Olympic Summer Games, medals and accompanying certificates were created, and a host town chosen. Taking into account its location, access to accommodation, guaranteed snow, and willingness to build a bobsleigh track, ice hockey arena, ski jumping venue and ice rink, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc (FRA) was given the vote of confidence.
On 20 February 1923, the French Olympic Committee (COF), represented by its Secretary General, Frantz Reichel, and the town of Chamonix, represented by its Mayor, Jean Lavaivre, signed an agreement that stipulated that France’s NOC would provide financial assistance for new facilities, while the town would commit to constructing a skating rink, ski jump and bobsleigh track. The town’s authorities also committed to maintain the facilities in an excellent condition for a minimum of 30 years, so as to make them available for “the French Olympic Committee or French associations, which may claim the venues from the town of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in the future”.