Introduction to the Winter Olympic Games

Thursday, 20 August 2015

The Olympic Winter Games is a famous international sporting event that is hosted every 4 years in different countries. As a Singaporean, I hardly hear about the Winter Olympics because it’s usually not applicable to our country since we do not have the climate for even the enjoyment of these sports. As such, the only ones that Singapore has actually taken part in are the Summer Olympics and the Youth Olympics. The obvious difference between the two would be that the Winter Olympics is composed of sports done on snow and ice. The very first Winter Olympics was held in 1924, Chamonix in France.

The games were held continuously from 1924 all the way up till 1936, where it was periodically halted due to World War II. It resumed in 1948 until 1992 where both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games were in tandem. With effect of a decision made in 1986 by the International Olympic Committee, where the Summer and Winter Olympics were to be held on separate four-year cycles, the following Winter Olympics was held in 1994.

The Winter Olympics has been hosted by eleven different countries in three different continents, namely the United States, having hosted it four times, followed by France who has hosted it three, and Austria, Canada, Japan, Italy, Norway and Switzerland hosting it twice. Germany, Russia and Yugoslavia have each hosted the Olympic Games once. In the upcoming Winter Olympics, PyeongChang, South Korea is proud to be able to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. 

Unlike the 41 sports that the Summer Olympics has, the Winter Olympics only consists of 15 different sports, further categorized into 3 categories: Snow Sports, Ice Sports and Sliding Sports. Snow Sports consists of Alpine Skiing, Biathlon, Cross-Country Skiing, Freestyle Skiing, Nordic Combined, Ski Jump and Snowboarding. The Ice Sports are the Curling, Figure Skating, Ice Hockey, Speed Skating and Short Track Speed Skating, and finally the Sliding Sports would be the Bobsleigh, Luge and Skeleton.

Snow Sports

Alpine Skiing is one of the most high profile sports at the Winter Olympics. Judged by their timing, the quickest to complete the course from the top of the mountain to the bottom takes home the gold. There are five different disciplines where downhill and super-G are purely speed, slalom and giant slalom where it is about the precision of the turn through gates, and super combined where is an all-rounded test.

Biathlon is one of the toughest sport at the Winter Olympics. Athletes take on a long race according to each discipline and have to shoot ranges either two or four times to fire and five targets as small as golf balls from 50m away. In the individual event, a miss in the shooting range results in a one-minute time penalty whereas in other events, a 150m penalty loop must be skied.

Cross-Country Skiing is essentially a cross country, but with skis on snow. The goal is simply to complete the entire course as quickly as possible and there are two different techniques used: the classic, where athletes ski along parallel tracks alternating foot to foot, and freestyle, which resembles the movements of ice skating.

Freestyle Skiing shows artistic performance while gliding down a slope. Skiers are judged in four different disciplines based on height, tricks performance and landings and in the last discipline, the Ski Cross, a quick race to the finish through a course with jumps and bumps.

Nordic Combined is the only male-only sport that combines both ski jump and cross-country skiing. This sport requires the concentrated power for the ski jump, followed by the tenacity and endurance for the cross-country race.

Ski Jumping is by far the most exhilarating and interesting sport where it is almost like gliding. Athletes jump further than the length of a football field and the slightest mistake could prove a fatal accident or a vital loss of points. Points are awarded for distance covered and style whilst mid-air.

A knockout system is used for all Snowboard Events where snowboarders are judged based on their tricks, jumps, precision and style. Akin to the Skiing Cross, the Snowboard Cross is also a race through a jump and bump-laden course.

Ice Sports

One of the more difficult-to-comprehend games, Curling is something like a life sized billiards game. However, the objective is to get stones nearer to the center of the house (scoring area) than your opponent. Points are given for every stone that’s nearer to the center after every set of 10 ends. The top four teams ascend to the semi-finals for knockout rounds.

A panel of 12 judges evaluates and scores two different segments: a Short Program/Dance that skaters perform certain required elements, and a Free Skating/Dance which allows a more creative performance based on choreography and technicality. 2 Olympic Games Gold and Silver medalist Yuna Kim is a world famous skater in Korea.


Ice Hockey is one of the oldest disciplines in the Winter Olympic Games and is the only full contact sport available. Two teams of six players each battle it out on the ice over a twenty minute game, with overtime and shoot-outs if necessary. The competition follows a traditional pyramid style of knockout through to the finals.

Speed Skating speaks for itself whereby the skaters race against the clock on a 400m oval. All events are done once, however the 500m is done twice. This event also follows the pyramid style of knockout rounds.

In Short Track Speed Skating, one of the most exciting sports where accidents are more common, skaters race in fours or sixes around a tight oval, with the fastest three qualify to the next round. There are 500m, 1000m, and 1500m relays

Sliding Sports

Bobsleigh has Two-man, Two-woman and Four-man where they start off with a sprint, thereafter racing down a 1.2-1.3km long course through steering and body-weight to help with the speed in corners. The team with the lowest aggregate time of four runs wins.

Luge is basically sliding down feet first on a small sled at really high speeds. The only sport to be timed to one thousandth of a second, the smallest mistake could mean a loss of a gold medal. The sled is steered using legs and shoulders and there are a total of four runs whereby the lowest aggregate timing wins.

In Skeleton, sliders go head first down a 1.2-1.3km long course on an even smaller sled, where the upper body is used to steer. Weight is moved around by the twisting of their head and shoulders. 

Through this article, I do hope that the many events held during the Winter Olympics would be a lot clearer and would definitely make more sense as a viewer. Interest first begins from knowledge and with this, it is my sincere wish that the Winter Olympics will be an event big enough to not just attract people from the northern hemisphere, but people from the southern hemisphere where time proves to be a great factor in the hosting of the Winter Olympics.

The big difference between winter sports and summer sports is that summer sports can still be held indoors, whereas it would almost be physically impossible to hold certain winter sports indoors. Therefore, as an activity that can only be done every quarter of a year, garnering more interest in them would definitely be a great head start to a more successful 2018 Winter Olympics. 

This article was written by an official college student reporter of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic * Paralympic Winter Games, WINNERS. Some contents might be different from the official position of the Organizing Committee.
All images were searched for and taken from

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