top of page

The Nordic Games. The First Winter Sports Event

The Nordic Games. The First Winter Sports Event

In 1924, from 25 January to 4 February, a winter sports week was held in Chamonix, France. The Olympic Winter Games formally began, although they were originally known as the "Semaine internationale des sports d’hiver". Before that time, winter sports events had been held during the Summer Games of London 1908 (figure skating), and Antwerp 1920 (figure skating and ice hockey).

However the first organized international competition involving winter sports was introduced just five years after the birth of the modern Olympics in 1896. In 1901, the Nordic Games, the first winter sports event was held in Stockholm.

After this first edition, the Nordic Games were held in February 1905, 1909, 1913, 1917, 1922, and 1926.

The Nordic Games were held in or around Stockholm except for the 1903 event, which was held in Kristiania (Oslo), although twice [1905 and 1913] they were moved, for lack of snow, to Östersundm.

The Games were arranged by the Sveriges Central Förening för Idrottens Fränjande (Swedish Central Association for the Promotion of Sports or SCFIF) led by Viktor Balck (1844-1928), a pioneer in sports development and a charter member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from 1894- 1921.

The Nordic Games. The First Winter Sports Event

The Nordic Games were predominately contested by people from the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and Norway. It should be remembered, however, that Iceland was a part of Denmark until 1918; Finland was a subordinate of Russia until 1919; and Norway was part of Sweden until 1905. It should also be noted that Finland was not included in the Nordic community in that era. Finland’s exclusion was probably due to the language barrier and its relationship with Russia.

In 1922 the Nordic Games had the strongest foreign participation when Norway, Finland, France, Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Romania provided 126 competitors.

The Nordic Games included all the popular winter sports, such as ski jumping, downhill racing, cross-country skiing and Nordic combined, skeleton, ice yachting, skate sailing, speed skating, figure skating, ice hockey, curling bandy, sled-dog racing, and even other non-winter sports, such as fencing (including, in 1901, foil fencing with both hands), a long-distance equestrian ride from Enköping to Stockholm (ca 80 km), and swimming in different years.

Other unusual winter sports contested were skeleton sleighing behind horses, hunting with horses, skiing behind reindeers, different forms of military sports, car racing, motorcycle racing, ballooning, kick-sled, and pulka racing.

With the growing popularity of winter sports and the development of international competitions – the first world figure skating championships were held in 1893, and the first Alpine skiing competition had taken place in 1911 – IOC members investigated the possibility of staging an Olympic Winter Games.

In 1921, the IOC gave its backing for a winter sports event to be held in Chamonix in 1924, with the Paris Olympic Summer Games to be held later that year. Although the Chamonix event was not called the ‘Olympic Games’, it was organised under the patronage of the IOC, and included many of the ceremonial aspects of the Olympic Games.

The event held in Chamonix was a success with the participation of 258 athletes from 16 countries competing in five sports: Bobsleigh, Curling, Ice Hockey, Skating, and Nordic Skiing.

Less than three months after the last Nordic Games, on May 6, 1926, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided retroactively to name the 1924 Semaine internationale des sports d’hiver in Chamonix as the I Olympic Winter Games.

The eighth Nordic Games originally announced for 1930 were canceled (on very short notice because of the weather) due to a lack of snow and ice in Sweden, and this was to prove fatal for the future of the Games. The periodicity had been broken, and the success of the Winter Olympics with their international appeal, overshadowed the Nordic Games.

Following the successful, despite being challenged by fluctuating weather conditions, II Olympic Winter Games of 1928 in St. Moritz (464 athletes from 25 countries participated in 14 events in 4 sports: Bobsleigh, Ice Hockey, Skating, and Nordic Skiing), and the increasing popularity of the Olympic Movement in international sport, interest in the Nordic Games waned. In addition to the Olympic Winter Games, the foundation of the Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) on February 2, 1924, in Chamonix, and the organization of the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland in 1926, and 1930 in Oslo, Norway, also contributed to diminishing the importance of the Nordic Games.

The Nordic Games as such ceased to exist as a major international event after the cancelation in 1930, although tentative plans for Nordic Games in 1934 were made. But in 1933 it was decided that no Nordic Games would be held in 1934 out of consideration for the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships competitions being held in Sollefteå (Sweden) that same year.


Ski Paradise
bottom of page