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Winter Olympics

Let the Games Begin! Discover the Host Cities of Past Winter Olympics

As the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi are about to launch in less than a fortnight, we take a look back at the Winter Olympics of yesteryear. If you are not able to take part in the festivities in Russia in person this year, we are here to reintroduce you to some of the wonderful host cities of the past, where you can enjoy fantastic winter sports this season. We have also gathered some fun facts about past Olympiads to allow you to brush up on your Olympics trivia. Take a look at some of the most prolific host countries, and rekindle your Olympic spirit!

Gold medal: USA, four-time host

The United States has hosted the Winter Olympic Games more times than any other country. The host cities are also varied geographically, as two-time host Lake Placid is found in the east of the country, Squaw Valley in the west, and Salt Lake City more in between. All of these host cities offer great activities this time of year, so pick up a car hire in the USA and take in the Olympic glamour of years past!

Lake Placid

Whiteface Mountain

Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid

Lake Placid hosted the Winter Olympics in 1932 as well as in 1980. This lovely village is situated in the Tri-Lakes region in the state of New York, and boasts fantastic opportunities for winter sports on Whiteface Mountain, Alpine and Nordic skiing in particular. You can drive to Lake Placid from Burlington, Vermont.

Did you know?
For the first time in Olympic history, artificial snow was used at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.

Squaw Valley

Located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California, the ski area in Squaw Valley is one of the largest in the United States, and can be easily reached from Sacramento, California, or Reno, Nevada. Squaw Valley hosted the Winter Olympics in 1960.

Did you know?
The Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley were the first to be televised live.

Silver medal: France, three-time host

A close second after the USA, France has played host to the Winter Olympics three times, and is the most prolific host in Europe. All the host locations, Chamonix, Grenoble, and Albertville, are located in the beautiful Rhône-Alpes in south-east France, and can be conveniently explored by hiring a car in France.

Chamonix

Among the oldest ski resorts in France, Chamonix hosted the very first Winter Olympic Games in 1924. The majestic peaks of the Aiguilles Rouges surround Chamonix, and it is claimed that even the north side of the summit of Mont Blanc is part of the village.

Did you know?
After a call for equality for winter sports and much deliberation at an International Olympic Committee convention in Lausanne in 1921, it was decided that what was then called an ‘International Winter Sports Week’, and would later become the Winter Olympic Games, should be held. The Winter Games were held during the same year as the Summer Olympics until 1994.

Grenoble

Grenoble

Grenoble

With a rich history of over 2,000 years, Grenoble has grown from a Gallic village into a bustling town. A picturesque landscape is created by the surrounding French Alps, as well as the joining of the Drac and Isère rivers. The Winter Olympics took place in Grenoble in 1968.

Did you know?
The 1968 Olympics were the first to have a mascot, even if only an unofficial one: a cartoon character on skis. This was also the first year that doping tests were used in the Winter Olympics.

 

Bronze medal: Switzerland and Austria (as well as Norway, Italy, Japan, and Canada)

The podium gets quite crowded for the bronze medallists, as six countries worldwide have had the honour of hosting the Winter Olympics twice. Here, we highlight Switzerland and Austria, as St. Moritz and Innsbruck are the only host cities, with the addition of Lake Placid, to have hosted the Games twice.

St. Moritz, Switzerland

St. Moritz

St. Moritz

A popular ski destination for international jet-setters, St. Moritz hosted the Winter Olympics in 1928 and 1948. St. Moritz is one of the most expensive ski resorts in the world, but one can hardly question why: the sun shines on over 300 days a year, and Piz Bernina, the Eastern Alps’ highest summit, is only a few miles away.

Did you know?
The 1928 Olympics experienced difficulties with fluctuating weather, leading to an event being cancelled due to the temperature rising as high as 25 degrees Celsius. The 1948 Winter Olympic Games were the first following World War II, the previous ones having taken place 12 years prior.

Innsbruck, Austria

Nestled in the middle of the Nordkette, Patscherkofel, and Serles mountains (all standing at more than 7,000 feet above sea level), Innsbruck, the capital of the federal state of Tyrol, was host to the Winter Olympics in 1964 and 1976. Besides its fantastic winter sports activities, the town boasts a lovely historic town centre.

Did you know?
Uncommonly for Innsbruck, lack of snow threatened to derail the Games in 1964. Luckily, the Austrian army came to the rescue: 20,000 ice cubes were carved from on top of a mountain for the luge and bobsled courses, and 40,000 cubic metres of snow were carried and packed down using hands and feet for the Alpine skiing events.

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