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25 Jan 2010
IOC News , St. Moritz 1928 , BRUNET, Pierre

Relive the Glories of past Olympic Winter Games: St.Moritz 1928

1928 St. Moritz Opening date: 11 February 1928
Closing date: 19 February 1928
Country of the host city: Switzerland (SUI)
Candidate cities: Davos (SUI), Engelberg (SUI)
Nations: 25
Events: 14

No stranger to hosting an international crowd and introducing them to unique sporting activities, the Swiss resort of St. Moritz made the task of welcoming the world look easy. On 11 February 1928 skates skis, ski poles, hockey sticks and athletic clothing were expected. Bobsleighs and sleds were not. Carrying most of the equipment for their sports, as they had been instructed to do by the Organizing Committee, the athletes of 25 nations created a colourful picture when they paraded through St. Moritz on their way to the Opening ceremony.

If any of the spectators lining the route from the Klum Grand Hotel to the stadium wondered why the athletes were dressed and equipped to compete, the answer quickly became clear. Less than one hour after the Games were declared open, some hockey players were already on the ice for the first match in the tournament whose format would be unique. Thus, with a mix of ceremonial pomp and sporting action, the II Olympic Winter Games got underway and history began to be made.

For eight more days athletes and spectators alike experienced all that St. Moritz had to offer. Horse drawn sleighs made the journey to the venues all the more special. If spectators wanted a break from the competitions, the Organizers were only too happy to introduce their visitors to other more unique winter sports options. Demonstrations of acrobatics on ice, where skaters jumped over long lines of barrels, and skijoring, a traditional Swiss event where skiers were towed by horses in fast paced and harrowing looking races, were just two of the options that proved popular with the watching crowds.

The festivities added to the atmosphere of the Games but did not overshadow the real reason that spectators had come to St. Moritz - to watch the official sports competitions and athletes from around the world in action.

The figure skating events, held at the Klum hotel, attracted capacity crowds who packed the stands and terraces surrounding the rink to watch as competitors spun, leapt and glided as well as they could over ice that was far from smooth. Most of the skaters rose to the challenge and turned in many noteworthy performances.


In the men’s competition, Gillis Grafström of Sweden was the athlete to watch. Despite skating on an injured knee Grafström still performed with dazzling precision and his performances earned him a third Olympic gold. Grafström had won his first medal in 1920 when figure skating was included as part of the Summer Games competition programme, and his second in 1924 at the I Olympic Winter Games.

When spectators had witnessed enough pirouettes it was easy to find another enthralling competition. Fans of the adrenaline rush of speed needed to look no further than the newly added discipline of skeleton, for example.

Skeleton’s inclusion was logical as St. Moritz was internationally famous for its Cresta run. The Cresta was a tobogganing piste highlighting ten icy curves carved out of the snow that guaranteed an exciting spectacle. Added to this was the fact that participants wore limited protective padding and showed little fear as they launched themselves onto sleds and hurdled down the run face first, sometimes barely clinging on.

Of those daring enough to commit their names to an entry form to participate in the men’s singles event it was the Americans Jennison and John Heaton that proved themselves most fearless. Familiarity also helped –the Heatons were no strangers to the Cresta having spent their winters in St. Moritz. Recording the fastest overall times put the brothers on top. Jennison became the first to win Olympic skeleton gold and John the first to win silver.

Despite its proven public popularity, skeleton would not reappear on the Olympic programme until the Winter Games returned to St. Moritz in 1948. It remains however, as one of the events that helped make the II Olympic Winter Games so memorable.

Athlete Biographies

Canadian Men's Ice Hockey Team

In 1928, a team mainly made up of former graduates from the University of Toronto rewrote Olympic history on route to winning gold in the ice hockey tournament.

Such was their talent that the journey to gold was made all the shorter after officials in St. Moritz witnessed the level of their skill and did the unheard of, advancing the team straight through to the finals.

The decision was a wise one as the Grads overwhelmed the three other teams that joined them in the finals. Hard as they tried, the players from the opposing teams were unable to get the puck into the Canadian net. When the buzzer sounded to end the third match, the Grads had come out on top. They finished with a stunning record of 11-0 against Sweden, 14-0 against and 13-0 against Switzerland.

  St-Moritz 1928


Andrée Joly and Pierre Brunet (France)

Already nationally successful as individual skaters, Pierre Brunet’s invitation to Andrée Joly to skate with him for an hour at the Paris Ice Palace set history in motion. Only a few months later they won their first Olympic medal, a bronze at the 1924 Winter Games in Chamonix.

Individual talent was gradually transformed, year by year, into double perfection. When the 1928 Olympic Winter Games arrived the couple turned their patented mirror style of skating into matching gold medals. As husband and wife they took home one more Olympic title in 1932 before eventually turning professional and moving to the United States.

The Olympic connection was not quite finished for Pierre though. Instead, in the years that followed, Coach Brunet watched as his pupils Carol Heiss, Donald Jackson, Scott Hamilton, Alain Calmat and Patrick Péra realized their own Olympic dreams.

  St-Moritz 1928


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