20 vintage photos of the first Winter Olympic Games

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January 28, 2022
George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

25 vintage photos of the first Winter Olympic Games

The first Winter Olympics—then called International Winter Sports Week—were held from Jan. 25 through Feb. 5, 1924, in the small French town of Chamonix. The multi-sport event featured 260 athletes representing 16 countries in five sports: bobsleigh, curling, ice hockey, Nordic skiing, and skating. Chamonix emerged from obscurity and into the spotlight as athletes publicly displayed their talents in various competitions from figure skating to cross-country skiing in front of more than 10,000 spectators. In 1926, the event was retroactively reclassified as the first-ever Olympic Winter Games.

Stacker curated a collection of 20 vintage photos from the competition, drawing from various sources to showcase groundbreaking sports milestones and athletic visionaries.

Among the nations participating in the first Winter Olympics were France, the United States, Canada, Norway, Italy, Great Britain, Poland, and Yugoslavia. The U.S. dominated the 500-meter speed skating event, while Canada secured several wins in ice hockey. The 1920s were also a time when women and young girls were allowed more freedom to partake in sports, even if it was a predictable winter sport such as figure skating. The photos in this collection showcase the excitement of the Games, stunning landscapes, and strikingly sparse gear of the athletes—including ice hockey players and bobsleigh teams competing without helmets.

The Winter Games were held every four years thereafter, pausing in 1940 and 1944 because of World War II. Olympic schedules were altered in the '90s, and over the years more sports and competitions have been added including luge, freestyle skiing, and snowboarding. Keep reading to learn more about the first Winter Olympics and to see stunning photos from the various events.

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Delegates gather for the opening ceremony

In this photo, delegates from competing nations gather on Jan. 25, 1924, in front of the Saint-Michel Church and Hotel de Ville for the opening ceremony of the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France. The first-ever games, aptly held in the French Alps, were originally pegged as "International Winter Sports Week."

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Italian athletes at the inaugural parade

Italian athletes stand proudly while attending the inaugural parade on Feb. 10, 1924. Italy sent 23 men to compete in four sports; the athletes didn't win any medals. Italy has hosted two Winter Olympics: the 1956 Winter Games in Cortina d'Ampezzo and the 2006 Winter Games in Turin. The country is slated to host again for the 2026 Winter Olympics.

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A pledge to sportsmanship

French athletes are seen taking the pledge to participate in the games with integrity during the 1924 Winter Olympics opening.

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American skaters practice

A group of American speed skaters preparing for competition at the 1924 Winter Games.  Five all-male speed skating events were held.

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10,000-meter speed skate commences

Spectators gather in anticipation at the beginning of the 10,000-meter speed skating competition at the Winter Games.

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500-meter speed skate

Speed skater Charles Jewtraw represented the United States in the men's 500-meter speed skating competition.

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First American winter Olympian

Charles Jewtraw became the first American speed skater to score a gold medal, winning the 500-meter speed skating competition at the Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France, in 1924. Jewtraw's historic win set the American record and in 1963 the Olympian was inducted into the National Speedskating Hall of Fame in Chicago.

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Ladies' singles figure skating

Eleven-year-old Norwegian actress and figure skater Sonja Henie competes in the ladies singles figure skating competition at the Stade Olympique. Henie previously won the senior Norwegian championships at the age of 10.

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Women's figure skating

Austrian figure skater Herma Planck-Szabo glides to victory, winning the gold medal in ladies' singles. Planck-Szabo was a powerhouse in the figure skating scene during the 1920s, having won five world titles.

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Skaters pose for a group photo

Figure skaters Herma Planck-Szabo of Austria (winning gold), Beatrix Loughran of the United States (winning silver), and Ethel Muckelt of Britain (winning bronze) pose for a photo together on Jan. 30, 1924.

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Ready for play

Members of the U.S. Olympic hockey team take a moment to take photos before training. The American team was triumphant in their first match against France.

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American hockey practice

In this photo, Alphonse Albert Lacroix, the goalkeeper for the American hockey team, is seen training for the 1924 Winter Games.

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Final Winter Olympics hockey match

In this photo, the Canadian team lands a victorious win over the American team in the final Olympic hockey match.

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Canadian team scores

Canada's Toronto Granites ice hockey team makes their final score, securing a victory over the United States in the final 6-1 to take home the gold medal.

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A winning team

Canada's men's ice hockey team stands tall and proud after winning gold.

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Getting into position

In this shot, the Olympians take to the bobsled track, Piste de Bobsleigh des Pellerins, the starting post specifically constructed for the 1924 Winter Games.

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Swiss bobsled team

The Swiss bobsled team makes their way to winning the first-ever gold medal for the four-man event.

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British team takes a turn

The four-man British bobsled team—comprised of Alexander Richardson, Ralph Broome, Thomas Arnold, and Rodney Soher—sleigh on to winning the silver medal at the Olympic Games.

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Skaters prepare

A group of American speed skaters check their blades in anticipation of the upcoming competition.

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First ski jumping gold medalist in action

Jacob Tullin Thams soars through the air, attracting dozens of onlookers as he competes on Feb. 4, 1924. The Norwegian athlete, who won the first Olympic gold medal in ski jumping, is captured here using a technique he created called the Kongsberger, which is still widely used in the sport today.

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