Chamonix Games take shape
Over the course of just one year, a variety of Olympic facilities were built along the banks of the Arve, the river that carves its way through Chamonix Valley. The circular Olympic rink, which would also serve as the stadium for the Opening Ceremony, had a 27,660m2 skating surface installed, featuring a racing track and a curling sheet, which required prior construction of a concrete flood wall to support the embankment that was preventing the river from bursting its banks. The water pipes were then modified so that a thin layer of water could be sprayed onto the icy surface.
The ski jump was built on a hill known as “Le Mont”, situated close to Glacier des Bossons. Approximately 79m long, it would supposedly enable skiers to comfortably jump distances of more than 60m. Meanwhile, the bobsleigh track, measuring 893m and featuring 19 devilish turns, was constructed out of stone with great precision – albeit not without difficulty – in Pèlerins, in the shadow of the Aiguille du Midi mountain.
The sporting programme was split into two categories: individual sports (speed skating, cross-country skiing, Nordic combined, ski jumping and figure skating) and team sports (military patrol, ice hockey, curling and bobsleigh). There were four speed skating events (500m, 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m) plus an all-round competition, three for figure skating (men’s, women’s and pairs), two for cross-country skiing (18km and 50km) and one for every other sport.
No fewer than 258 athletes (245 men and 13 women) from 17 countries – Austria, Belgium, Canada, United States, Estonia, Finland, France, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia – lined up to compete in the inaugural Winter Games, which were scheduled to run from 25 January to 5 February 1924.