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18 Feb 2006
IOC News

Philately and the Olympic Winter Games until 1948

In the framework of the XX Olympic Winter Games, Torino 2006, an exhibition organised by the IOC’s Olympic philately, numismatic and memorabilia commission traces the evolution of the Winter Games up to 1948. Visitors can discover a number of original designs of the very first Olympic stamps, as well as the stamps which Germany and Italy planned to issue for the Games in 1940 and 1944, but did not do so because of the Second World War.
A story marked by the non-celebration of the Games
A special feature of the collection on display is the “Odyssey” of the V Olympic Winter Games. These were scheduled in Sapporo in 1940, but were subsequently offered to Oslo after Sapporo withdrew as host of these Games because of the Chinese-Japanese war. Oslo initially agreed to host these Games, but had to refuse the offer because in the meantime it had been awarded the FIS world championships. The dispute between the FIS and the IOC determined Oslo’s decision. The Games were then awarded to St Moritz, but the FIS situation again prevented them from taking place there. In 1939, the Games were withdrawn from St Moritz and awarded to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. However, WWII prevented them from taking place. In 1941, Cortina d’Ampezzo hosted the FIS world championships, and at the same time prepared for the 1944 Winter Olympic Games that had been awarded to it in 1939. WWII also prevented these Games, and it was only in 1949 that the X Olympic Winter Games finally took place in St Moritz.
Olympic Philately, a bond with the Games
Olympic Philately has a special position in philately and a particular bond with the Olympic Movement and the Olympic Games. The Olympic stamps were the first sports stamps, the father of them all. They are historical documents since they tell us about the sports, how they developed, the Olympic programme, the hopefuls of each participating nation, the venues, the winners, the ceremonies and much more. Several hundred Olympic medallists have been immortalised on stamps, postmarks and postal stationery.
Brief history of the Winter Games
Pierre de Coubertin included skating in the original Olympic programme that he proposed in 1894. Skating was not possible in 1896 because of a lack of facilities. Skating was, however, included in the 1900 Games. Although skating rinks were available, no stands for spectators were ready on time. Skating was therefore withdrawn from the programme. It was only in 1908 in London that figure skating became part of the Summer Games. In 1912, Sweden refused to include winter sports because it was afraid that this would be detrimental to the famous Nordic Games.
In 1916, a full Winter Games programme was included, but because of WWI the Games did not take place. In 1920, winter sports returned to the Games as part of the Summer Games, and ice hockey was added to the programme. The battle for separate Olympic Winter Games went on until 1924. The Scandinavian countries agreed to a separate Winter Games Week in Chamonix so that this would not be part of the Games of the VIII Olympiad. This initiative was extremely successful,, and in 1925 the Olympic Congress in Prague retroactively declared the Chamonix Games as the first Olympic Winter Games. Since then, the Olympic Winter Games have taken place every four years (until 1992 in the same year as the Summer Games, and since 1994 every four years alternating with the Summer Games).
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