This month sees the deadline for cities interested in hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics to submit their application. Until just a few weeks ago, Barcelona was amongst those planning to throw their hats into the ring, in a joint submission with a number of ski resorts and towns in the Pyrenees. Having hosted the Summer Olympics in 1992, Barcelona had hoped to earn the prestigious honour of being the first city to host both Winter and Summer Olympics. However, as the deadline grew closer, mayor Xavier Trias decided to postpone Barcelona’s application and look instead to the 2026 games; a lack of political support from other parties on the city council was cited as one of the reasons for his decision along with the defeat of the Madrid 2020 campaign, which Trias said led “everyone” to advise him to delay the application. The 1992 Games transformed Barcelona from an industrial, uncared-for city (with no beach and very little tourism) into the place we know today; new roads, a new sewage system and new green spaces and beaches were all created for that landmark event. The Games also changed the way people think of Barcelona—it is now the world’s 12th most popular city destination—and helped Spain become a sporting juggernaut with top performers in fields such as football, basketball, cycling and tennis. Any bid to host the Winter Olympics would be bolstered with the argument that the city already has the necessary infrastructure in place as well as its proximity to the Pyrenees. However, staging the Olympics would also entail serious cost implications; reports prior to the recent postponement claimed that the would-be organisers were seeking €1.4 billion of tax money to produce the games. The host of the Winter 2022 Olympics will be announced in July 2015 in Kuala Lumpar, following the creation of a shortlist of candidates next summer. A decision on the 2026 games will be taken in 2019.
THE WINTER OLYMPICS were first held in the French Alpine resort of Chamonix in 1924. Spectators had a chance to see sports such as Alpine and cross-country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, Nordic combined, ski jumping and speed skating. Since then the variety of sports has broadened with disciplines such as bobsleigh, luge and snowboarding becoming regular events in the Winter Games. Demonstration sports that have featured over the years include speed skiing, bandy (a mixture between ice hockey and football) and skijoring (when a person on skis is pulled by a dog or horse).
During their almost 90 years, the Winter Olympics have witnessed drug controversy, boycotts, political unrest and a world war. The 1940 Games, awarded to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany, were cancelled following the country’s invasion of Poland in 1939.
Norway sits at the top of the leader board, boasting 263 medals. It is also the country that has produced the most successful Winter Olympian to date. Retired in 2001, cross country skier Bjørn Dæhlie won 12 medals for his country (eight gold and four silver) during his career, the most any athlete has taken home from the Winter Games.
Scottish athlete Alain Baxter was the first British Olympian to win a medal for Alpine skiing, winning a bronze at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. On returning to his hometown in Aviemore, however, he learnt that he had failed a drug test; he was later disqualified and stripped of his medal. Baxter soon discovered that the trace of drug that caused his failed test was an inactive isomer originating in a Vicks Inhaler purchased in the US (where the medication contains different ingredients from the UK). After a long struggle to regain his title, he lost his appeal and remains unrecognised for his accomplishment.
The tale of the famous Jamaican bobsled team remains one of the most popular in Olympic history. With a tropical climate and white, sandy beaches, Jamaica was an unlikely candidate to compete in the Winter Olympics. However, the country pulled together a bobsled team for the 1988 Games in Calgary, Canada where they gained support from both other participants and spectators because of their determination despite their lack of expertise, experience and equipment. Their story was celebrated in the 1993 film Cool Runnings.
The next edition of the Winter Olympics will be staged in the Russian town of Sochi in February 2014. The lead-up to the event has been overshadowed by controversy regarding Russia’s anti-gay laws, outrage at the €51 billion cost of staging the Games and problems with floods in the city.