If you’re looking for the ultimate guide to the upcoming Winter Olympics, or you want to learn more about how it all started, then we’ve got you covered. It’s all right here.
The Winter Olympics has a rich history that dates back more than a century. The Olympics has its roots in Ancient Greece, but it wasn’t until the turn of the twentieth century that there was a call to include winter disciplines in the Olympic games. As the home of all things winter and sporting, we thought we’d put together the ultimate guide to the Winter Olympics, covering everything from the origins of this amazing competition, to the medal standings, the locations and evolution of the games, the latest happenings from Beijing, and of course, what lies ahead for 2026 in Cortina D’Ampezzo. It’s all right here at Ridestore. So, without any further waffling, let’s get into it!
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The 2022 Winter Olympics were the most recent games, and were held in Beijing. This was significant for a number of reasons, both physically and metaphorically. It may seem strange to host the Winter Olympics in a city most famous for its smog and sprawling metropolis.
And while it does get hot there in the summer with an average high of around 30℃ and an average low of around 20℃, the winter experiences a good seasonal swing and gets as cold as 3℃ for its average high and as low as -7℃ for its average winter low.
However, due to its location and the way that cold air currents from Siberia and the Arctic commonly sweep down, it’s not uncommon for it to get down to -20℃. In fact, the coldest ever temperature was recorded in January of 2021 at a balmy -27℃! The highest ever recorded temperature there has been 42℃, in July. Luckily, not in the same year!
The 2022 Winter Games ran from February 4th to 20th 2022, and despite there being little in the way of snow (Beijing has a very small amount of annual snowfall, and the majority of the snow for this year’s game was manufactured and then trucked in to build the various courses), temperatures were blisteringly cold. Some events were called off or cancelled, and many were postponed or moved. The four-man biathlon was one such event where the temperatures reached -17℃ on the morning of the event, with a scheduled drop to -20℃ by the time the event started, with a predicted windchill of -30℃!
It was so cold at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, that a Finnish cross-country skier finished the race, and then had to be medically treated for a case of, er, frozen penis. Talk about commitment!
Beyond the frostbite and rescheduling, the winter games at Beijing was a howling success, and saw lots of firsts. Most notably, the winter games appearing in Beijing marked the first time that a city had hosted both the summer and winter games. A few cities had hosted more than one winter games, but never both the summer and the winter, so it was a big boon for China. They had already poured a staggering $52.7B dollars — yep, that’s billion — into the 2008 summer games, and were able to reuse much of their existing infrastructure for the 2022 Winter Games. While the winter games are generally ‘cheaper’ (South Korea spent a measly $15.4 billion on the 2018 PyeongChang games, for example), the costs are still enough to bankrupt most small countries. As such, the list of countries actually able to host the ever-growing games isn’t that large.
China’s flourishing economy and its large presence on the world stage, along with the friction between many first-world nations in regard to the global climate change strategy, have all been points of contention recently. While more than 100 nations attended the COP26 Summit in Glasgow to put in place plans to halt climate change, the leaders of both Russia and China were not in attendance. These two countries are large consumers of fossil fuels, so for their leaders to not attend was a huge blow to the summit. However, the Winter Games showed that China did in fact have a commitment to the world, and helped in some ways to rebuild some bridges in the international community.
There were some boycotts of a political nature, but the athletes were all keen to make the trip and represent their countries, and as usual, the athleticism, camaraderie, and sportsmanship was commendable, despite a few hiccoughs, disputes, and other sticking points.
There were definitely some high moments and some low moments at the 2022 Winter Games. Diplomatic boycotts were the biggest news in the run-up, with many countries citing the human rights situation in China as their reason for not travelling. This was surrounded by criticism of the choice of China as a host and their politicisation of the games. There was a lot of talk of censorship going on among the athletes, wherein only positive comments were aired, and many interviews were scripted to conform to this. But it’s all a bit murky, and only detracts from the mind-bending shows of athleticism on display.
The conversation surrounding some of the decisions made by the judges of various sports has been one that’s not been far from peoples’ lips since the games concluded. The mixed team ski jumping was overshadowed by the preliminary disqualification of several previous olympic medalists due to their jumpsuits being too loose, meaning they could not even compete. The athletes complained afterwards, with one of them citing that they wore the same suit two days prior without any issues, in another event. The decision stood, and none of the teams whose athletes were disqualified managed to earn a medal as a result.
In the mixed 2,000 metre short track speed skating event, the US, who placed second, were disqualified after the event finished for interfering with other skates, which allowed the Chinese team to place second, advanced to the next round, and then ultimately claim the gold medal. The US athletes expressed their dissatisfaction, but the call stood.
In the 1,000 metre short-track speed skating, the South Korean athlete who placed first in heat 1 was disqualified after the event, and in heat 2, his fellow countryman was also disqualified, allowing two Chinese athletes to advance to the next round. There, the Hungarian athlete who won was disqualified, meaning the two Chinese athletes claimed gold and silver medals. Both the South Korean team and the Hungarian team filed complaints against the International Skating union, but both were rejected on the basis that rulings could not be overturned.
During the men’s 5,000 metres relay short-track speed skating event, the Chinese team fell with ten laps remaining. It was ruled there was contact between the skate of a Canadian athlete and that of a Chinese athlete, so despite finishing in last place, the Chinese team was advanced to the next round.
In the men’s snowboard slopestyle, Max Parrot of Canada claimed gold despite missing a grab on his winning run, which was missed by the judging panel due to the lack of filming angles provided by the organisers. Su Yiming of China got silver, with fellow Canadian Mark McMorris claiming bronze.
In the men’s snowboard halfpipe, Ayumu Hirano executed the world’s first triple cork as part of a completed run (it had previously been done in isolation, but never as part of a complete run), with the commentators and judges failing to recognise the trick, mislabelling it as a double-cork and scoring it as such. As the only athlete in the world who successfully performed this trick, the inability of the judges to be able to identify and award it threw into question their suitability as judges. Ultimately, Hirano was forced to repeat this extremely dangerous trick, and on doing so, was eventually awarded the gold medal.
However, the controversies didn’t stop there. There were some issues surrounding the quarantine procedures and the care the athletes in quarantine received. Some athletes even went as far as to say the officials intentionally quarantined them in order to prevent them competing. Polish short track speed skater Natalia Maliszewska suffered from an unnecessary apprehension as the result of incorrecting testing and results, while Finnish ice hockey player Marko Antilla was quarantined without food. Belgian skeleton athlete Kim Meyelemans finished her quarantine, but instead of being allowed back to the Olympic Village, was taken to another quarantine facility without explanation, forcing the IOC to intervene and rescue her.
The standard of catering also came under heavy scrutiny, especially when athletes finishing their runs and events were offered nuts, crisps, and chocolates, with no hot food in sight. In many other places, including the Main Media Centre and other restaurants in the Olympic Village, the quality of food was berated by many, including the staff. The US delegation even brought their own dried food, such as pasta, anticipating these issues.
Of course, among other things, the issues surrounding COVID-19 were persistent throughout it all. Qualifying events for curling and hockey were disrupted, a number of athletes failed to compete in their disciplines due to quarantine and other COVID-related incidents. The Chinese government created an ‘Olympics Bubble’ which meant that all media and staff arrived two weeks priort to the games and were contained within the Olympic Village, unable to interact with the greater population, to prevent the spread of infection. This was an unprecedented undertaking, and while it proved ultimately disruptive and the organisation and execution of the games was heavily criticised, to be able to host the largest Winter Olympic games in history, in the midst of a global pandemic, regardless of the issues, was a tremendous feat.
The Winter Olympics ran from the 2nd to the 20th of February of 2022, marking 18 days of competition. With more disciplines than ever before, Beijing 2022 was the largest Winter Olympic games in history. The Paralympics followed shortly after, running between the 4th and 13th of March, with 9 days of competition which showcased the best display of winter Para athletics ever seen.
The Winter Olympic Games are a huge gathering that happens once every four years. There are now 15 different disciplines in all, including qualifying, preliminary, and medal events for both men and women. Check out our full list below for each sport and the number of events held in each sport.
The Winter Paralympic Games features five sports, including wheelchair curling, Para ice hockey, Para alpine skiing, Para snowboard, and Para nordic ski — which included Para biathlon and Para cross-country skiing. Beijing saw the biggest Paralympic games ever, with an increased maximum of 748 Para athletes and 82 medal events, two more than there were at PyeongChang for the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games. There will also be an increase from 2018, with 234 spaces available for women, which, if all filled, means a 76% increase from the 133 women who competed at the 2018 games in PyeongChang.
The history of the Winter Olympics doesn’t date back as far as Ancient (or Classical) Greece — no curling at Athens circa 400BC, sorry to say!
But it is still an interesting story that was shaped by the world wars, the physical locations of the Summer Olympic Games around the turn of the 20th century, and some coincidental nepotism to boot. So let’s dig into the history of the Winter Olympics a little more, shall we?
Way back when everyone got together to ring in the new year for the big ‘1900’, the Summer Olympics had already had its first outing … just four years earlier in 1896, in Athens, Greece. At the same time, the Nordic Games was being conceived. So the idea was put into play for an event to take place in Stockholm in 1901, hosted by the Swedish Central Association for the Promotion of Sports. Or the SCFIF is that’s too long. As if the acronym is any better!
The brainchild of Viktor Balck, Swedish sporting superstar, the games included disciplines such as ski jumping, downhill racing, cross-country skiing, skeleton, speed skating, figure skating, hockey, and the old favourite, curling! It also included a few non-snowy sports like fencing, swimming, and long-distance horse riding, and some now defunct and more abstract sports like horse-driven sledging, Glima (Nordic folk wrestling), hunting, reindeer skiing (skijoring), military sports, car racing, motorcycle racing, ballooning, kick sledging, and pulka racing! If you ask us, this sounds excellent.
Balck was also a member of the International Olympic Committee and was good friends with Olympic Games founder Pierre de Coubertin. Despite creating the Nordic Games, Balck wanted to get figure skating into the summer Olympics, too. Being the President of the International Skating Union and determined to raise the profile of ice skating in the global eye, this was no surprise. Using his friendship with Coubertin, he successfully integrated figure skating into the 1908 Summer Olympics, held in London. There was a men’s and women’s discipline, and two medals were handed out to Ulrich Salchow (10-time world champion) and Madge Syers.
As the 1912 games approached, set to be held in Stockholm, Sweden (where the Nordic Games were held), an Italian count named Eugenio Brunetta d’Esseaux (IOC Committee Secretary) proposed an entire extra week of specific winter sports be held alongside the summer sports. However, this was met with opposition as the Swedish organisers wished to uphold the integrity of their own Nordic games. Also, it was the middle of summer and hosting winter sports would prove difficult as there’d be no snow or ice to use for it…
In 1916, the idea was proposed again and accepted, with a week earmarked for speed skating, figure skating, ice hockey, and nordic skiing planned. Except there was one issue — World War One happened. And the games were supposed to be held in Berlin. Not ideal. The games were entirely cancelled, not surprisingly. Though in 1920, the first post-war Olympic Games were held in Antwerp, Belgium, and included figure skating once again and an ice hockey tournament. On account of their participation in the war, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Turkey were banned from competing.
It seemed after the success of these additions to the 1920 games that the IOC were more amenable to the Winter Sports Week idea, and so for the 1924 Olympic games, held in Paris, France, a whole eleven days of events were added, hosted in Chamonix, France, in the shadow of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps, and Europe — the epicentre of the ski world even today. Fitting!
More than 250 athletes from 16 countries competed in 16 events. And though this was technically part of the summer games, it was retroactively dubbed the first Winter Olympic games. The follow-up was held separately from the summer games in St. Moritz, Switzerland, plagued with weather issues. However, it was the first — unofficially — true Winter Olympics.
The first Winter Olympics is credited to France in 1924 as they hosted a specific ‘Winter Sports Week’ in Chamonix, following the conclusion of the summer disciplines. However, the first truly separated games took place in St. Moritz, Switzerland, four years later in 1928, and was a total mess due to the weather with events being cancelled on account of a freak blizzard that disrupted the opening ceremony, followed by unseasonably warm weather which challenged the rest of the events, and cancelled the 10,000m speed skating competition entirely due to unstable ice conditions.
In 1932, the USA hosted the games in Lake Placid, New York. However, fewer nations and athletes competed versus 1928 as a selection of European countries were still recovering from the strains of the first world war and were in the midst of the Great Depression, so they couldn’t muster the funds to send their athletes across the Atlantic to compete.
The first games were hosted in Chamonix after World War One and featured 11 days of events, with six sports, nine disciplines, 16 events, and 258 athletes.
The second games were held in St. Moritz, with just four sports, eight disciplines, and 14 events. However, they welcomed 464 athletes in total.
Lake Placid, New York, hosted the third games for the first time in the US. Fewer athletes competed due to the distance needed to get there and the knock-on effects of the first world war. Just 252 athletes competed in 14 events across seven disciplines and four sports.
Germany were banned from the Olympics until 1925 due to their participation in World War One but were invited to host it in 1936. Four sports and eight disciplines saw 17 events take place, with a whopping 646 athletes in attendance—the biggest turnout to date.
Due to taking place in Sapporo, Japan, these games were cancelled following World War Two.
Always optimistic, Italy was allowed to host the ‘44 games at Cortina d’Ampezzo by the ICO. These games were also cancelled due to the war.
Not satisfied with the first go-round, Switzerland once more welcomed the games back to St. Moritz, with four sports, nine disciplines, 22 events, and 669 athletes in attendance.
Norway hosted the games, which was significant because they’d dominated the medals table in 1924, ‘28, ‘36, and ‘48. Losing only to the US when they hosted it in ‘32 (when the US had more athletes than any other country). Unsurprisingly, Norway swept the table once more for a 5 out of 6 medals win record. They had four sports, eight disciplines, and 22 events, with 694 athletes competing.
Cortina d’Ampezzo got a second chance to host the games in ‘56 and put together 24 events across eight disciplines and four sports. 821 athletes competed, and the Soviet Union, having somewhat recovered from the effects of World War Two, took home their first medals table win — the beginning of a nearly undisputed reign.
Once again in the US, the town now known as Palisades Tahoe in California (known then as Squaw Valley, renamed due to the derogatory meaning of the name) hosted the 1960 games. A troubling time for the US due to the ongoing Vietnam War, the games was a welcome coming together of nations. Four sports, eight disciplines, and 27 events transpired, with a lowered 665 athletes in attendance (once again due to the logistic strain faced by poorer countries around the world at the time). The Soviet Union once again swept the medals table.
The little city of Innsbruck, Austria, hosted the ‘64 games. An expanded 6 sports saw ten disciplines emerge, with 34 events total, making it the largest games to date. Again, 1091 athletes made an appearance. But the Soviet Union still proved their prowess with another win.
Grenoble in France took a swing at hosting, and played home to six sports, ten disciplines, 35 events, as well as 1158 athletes. Norway also dethroned the Soviets in medals. For this year, at least.
Sapporo Japan finally got their turn at bat, with the same number of events. The Soviets swiftly regained dominance here. 1123 athletes competed.
Back in the US once more, Lake Placid took a second turn at hosting 37 events, but despite the slightly lowered attendance — 1072 athletes — the Soviets continued to reign supreme. Much to the chagrin of the hosts!
A more original choice of host this time saw the games travel to Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The first world war was played a large part in the formation of the games, so it seemed full-circle to take them to Sarajevo, the city where Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated — the single event usually credited with precipitating the onset of the first world war. 39 events saw 1272 athletes compete. But the Soviets, despite the games being held in their backyard, couldn’t muster enough to beat out then-still-divided East Germany. The Berlin Wall would come down in November 1989, in time for the Albertville games. But not for the Calgary games of 1988.
Calgary, Canada, hosted one of the most famous Olympic games in recent history as the largest to date. Featuring an expanded schedule held across three weeks, spectators saw new ski jumping and speed skating events while curling made its debut as an official event! Freestyle skiing was also added, a decision that would shape future games to come. 48 events were held across six sports and ten disciplines, with a massive 1423 athletes competing. Unfortunately, it was still not enough to hold off the Soviet Union, who would win the medals table for the last time under that name.
Albertville, France welcomed the 1992 games, the last games held in the same year as the Summer Olympics. Games that marked change worldwide saw a united Germany return to the country with whom they’d gone to war and sweep the medals table. Two further disciplines were added, totalling 12, with 57 events and 1801 athletes in attendance.
Switching to a schedule that staggered the winter and summer games, Lillehammer in Norway hosted the 1994 games, which saw 1737 athletes compete in 61 events. With the dissolution of the USSR being completed in 1991, a now more unified Russia took home the win on the medals table.
Nagano, Japan, saw a seventh sport added to the schedule — snowboarding (!!!), and was the first games to see 2000 athletes compete. Men’s and women’s parallel, halfpipe, snowboard cross, and slopestyle got their first outing for a total of seven sports, 14 disciplines, 68 events, and a massive 2176 competitors. The biggest games to date! Germany once again beat the odds — and the Russians — to claim victory.
In the US, in Salt Lake City, Utah, 78 events saw 2399 athletes compete, with Norway taking the medals win for the first time since 1968.
Turin, Italy, welcomed the games with 2508 athletes competing in 84 events. Germany once again won the medals table.
Returning to the Great White North, Vancouver played host to the games with 2566 athletes competing. And with the spirit of patriotism fueling them, the Canadians won the medals table for the first time!
Russia hosted the games for the first time and swept the medals table, to boot. Mired in difficulties surrounding weather conditions and some of the event courses, the Sochi games were challenging for many countries but still saw 2873 athletes give it their all in 98 events.
Pyeongchang in South Korea hosted more than 100 events for the first time, with 102 taking place across the 16 day schedule. 2922 athletes attended, and Norway made a valiant showing, pipping the Russians for the medals table win.
Beijing, China, will become the city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympic games. 109 events will occur, but who will claim the victory this time? The Chinese have never claimed a medals table win, but their winter athletes have been training hard. Will this be their year?
Already decided, the games will travel to Italy, to take place in Cortina d’Ampezzo for the second time.
Though the Winter Olympics have been running since 1924, they’ve not always been as large and well-attended as they are now. Many countries have attended religiously, while some are relative newcomers. Others competed as one country, then as another, while some have never competed. So, with all that in mind, here’s a rundown of the global historical medals table leaders as they stand now.
Certain countries aren’t a surprise to see up there. Norway has a rich history of winter sports and invented Nordic skiing. Their early dominance in the first games gave them a lead that they’ve worked hard to maintain all these years. And with another win in 2022 in Beijing, they continue to prove that their small population means nothing once they’re out on the ice (and snow!). The US has hosted some poorly attended games, where they dominated, especially in the earlier years. Their large population and a heavy focus on winter sports is also a boon for finding great athletes!
Germany holds the third spot and occupies numbers 13 and 18 on East Germany and West Germany rankings. If their medals were pooled, they would have 416 medals, with 152 golds, 149 silvers, and 113 bronze medals. This would take them to the top spot, ahead of Norway. It’s made even more impressive that this is from a total of 19 games (14 as Germany, and 6 as the separated East and West Germany), versus Norway and the US’s 24 games.
The Soviet Union and Russia would have a combined 314 medals, taking them to second place; however, it’s important to note that the USSR contained Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. And after its dissolution, those countries went on to compete independently. As such, it’s difficult to make any clear assumptions or combinations. We’ll just have to see how things shake out in another one hundred years!
Interestingly, countries like Austria, Switzerland, and the Netherlands have small populations in comparison to the US, Russia, Canada, and even Germany. So it’s a surprise to see them in the top ten. But it just goes to show you can never discount the little guy! 2022 saw Netherlands move up from the 10th to the 9th spot on the world rankings table, with Russia’s ban following the doping scandals still in effect. Some athletes were allowed to compete under independent banners, but no medals tallied towards Russia’s counts in 2022, allowing Netherlands to surpass them.
More interestingly, despite being in the top ten, some of these countries have never won a medals table for any single Olympics. Norway still holds the record, with nine wins, with the Soviet Union just behind with seven thanks to their mid-1900s dominance, from ‘56 to ‘88, where they won seven of nine games. Following the dissolution of the USSR, however, they won’t be able to claim an eighth, giving Norway some breathing room.
Germany trails behind with three wins, beating Russia with two (they have some work to do to catch Norway!). The US, Sweden, East Germany, and Canada all hold one each and finish out the list of countries who have ‘won’ a Winter Olympic games.
Of course, we understand that there's a big difference between winning a gold, silver or bronze medal, so here's a rundown of which countries have won most medals of each type.
How is the host city for the Winter Olympics chosen?
The International Olympic Committee accepts bids from cities worldwide. After rigorous evaluations, a host city is selected seven years ahead of the games.
How have the Winter Olympics evolved over time?
From its inception, the Winter Olympics have seen numerous changes and advancements, such as the inclusion of new sports disciplines, advancements in athletic equipment and training methods, and improvements in hosting capabilities. The use of technology has also increased dramatically, enhancing event organization, performance measurement, and viewer experiences.