Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Olympics (Winter Edition)

This week I was going to blog about a book I read for my New South class about the real John Henry. A tall tale in American history, John Henry was a man who raced a steam drill and won, but in the process killed himself. I learned a lot about John Henry, a story I had not heard before. If you are like me, click the link to hear my favorite version of his ballad I found on youtube.

John Henry doesn’t relate to this week per say, but he does live on in history. However, Friday February 23, 2010 the Winter Olympics opened in Vancouver, Canada, and while the event did not originate this week, it is going on in the present this week. So, it is my topic of choice this week.

I’ve decided to look into the history of the Winter Olympics this week, and one particular winter sport: luge.

Why luging you are probably asking. Friday February 23, 2010 history was made, but not in a good way. At a practice run Georgian Luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed when he lost control of his sled and catapulted over the safety wall and into a support beam.

This event was, and still is tragic to hear. Mr. Kumaritashvili was born in 1988, and was 21 when he died. It is so strange, he was my age when he died, and tragic that his life was taken at such a young age. So, to honor his memory, I am going to research his sport as a tie in to my larger topic this week. Think about this as a post dedicated to his memory.

You know, I have never had this much difficulty finding information. I know Wikipedia is usually not that reliable, that that is honestly the most in depth information I have actually found on the subject! You would think the Winter Olympics would have a bunch of info, but apparently not… suppose I’ll have to make do with what I have.

From what I can gather, the Winter Olympics was introduced five years after the birth of the Summer Olympics in 1896. Figure skating was the first event, but it was featured in 1908, at the Summer Olympics in London. The IOC (International Olympic Committee) wanted to put skating in the Olympic program, a sport now associated with the winter games more than the summer games.

The original Winter Olympics were supposed to be held in Berlin, Germany, in 1916, featuring “Nordic” events as they were defined. However, the outbreak of WWI delayed the games.

The first Winter Olympic games were then held in 1924 in Chamonix, France. The first gold medal at the Winter Games went to speed skater Charles Jewtraw of the U.S.

That is basically all I could find involving the history of how the Winter Olympics came about, at least as far as free sites are concerned. While one day I will gladly pay for my information I need some sort of return off this hobby before I start doing that now.

I also looked up the different locations and found where the various games have been held over the years:
1924- Charmoinx, France
1928- St. Moritz, Switzerland
1932- Lake Placid, New York USA
1936- Farmisch- Partenkirchen, Germany
1940 and 1944 the games were not held due to WWII
1948- St. Moritz, Switzerland
1952 - Oslo, Norway
1956 - Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
1960 - Squaw Valley, California USA
1964 - Innsbruck, Austria
1968 - Grenoble, France
1972 - Sapporo, Japan
1976 - Innsbruck, Austria
1980 - Lake Placid, N.Y.
1984 - Sarajevo, Yugoslavia
1988 - Calgary, Alberta, Canada
1992 - Albertville, France
1994 - Lillehammer, Norway
1998 - Nagano, Japan
2002 - Salt Lake City, Utah USA
2006 - Turin, Italy
2010 - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
2014 - Sochi, Russia

And next, because I am a really big nerd, I searched the different sports and how they’ve been added to the games over time. Click the link to take a look, since I’m too lazy to actually post them. Scroll down, there’s a nice little chart about half way down the page.

**Note: I found this listing on Wikipedia. I know, not the most reliable, but they had a little chart and all. So, if I am wrong I am sorry. I try to stay away from Wikipedia usually for that reason.

Now, on to luge. The Vikings are credited with creating luge, they built the giant slides to go down mountains, and were conducting races as early as 800 C.E. luge is a French word meaning toboggan. The first international race was in 1883 in Davos, Switzerland. There were 21 different competitors from seven different countries.

In 1964 luge became an Olympic sport. As we can see from the amazing listing posted above, the first place to host luge was Innsebruck, Austria. The goals are simple: make it down the hill the fastest while lying on an open sled on your back.

And with that, I am out for this week. I’m excited to see how the Olympics unfold today, and in the coming days. I have had fun watching so far. As always, I wish everyone a good week! Let’s see who makes history at these Olympic games!

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