On this day in 1924, the first Winter Olympic Games began in Chamonix, France. At the time, the event was called ‘International Winter Sports Week’ but it was later retroactively called the Winter Olympics. The sports included speed skating, figure skating, ice hockey, bobsleigh and skiing. Only 16 nations took part in the first Winter Olympics, but the event steadily gained more recognition. The most recent Winter Olympics, in Vancouver in 2010, saw 82 participating nations.
1924 also saw the Summer Olympic Games in Paris. However in 1994, the rules were changed so the Winter Olympics take place two years after the Summer Olympics. Hence this year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi occur two years after London hosted the Summer Games.
The 2014 Winter Olympics promise to be a controversial one. There are considerable fears of terrorist attacks striking the Games in Sochi, Russia. There is mounting unrest in the region, and terrorist threats have been made. The nearby city of Volgograd has been struck three times in recent months, adding to fears about the safety of Sochi. There have also been calls the boycott the Games due to the repressive policies of Vladimir Putin. His political legitimacy is called into question, and his regime has provoked international outrage with its treatment of political protestors (such as the band Pussy Riot) and its anti-homosexual laws. When the Games open on February 7th, the world will be watching.