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No Winter Olympics Here

February 13, 2018

The Winter Olympics are getting underway in Pyeongchang, South Korea. There might be just a little bit of jealousy coming from these other cities, all of whom wanted to host the winter games…and didn’t get to.

Winter and Summer Locations

The first modern Olympics were held in 1896, but those were for “summer” sports. Things like skiing and skating had to wait to be contested at the highest international level until 1924, when the IOC started up the Winter Olympics, held the same year (but earlier) as the Summer Games. To make planning somewhat easier, countries that won their bid to host the Summer Olympics also won the right to host the Winter Olympics. That’s why the first winter ones were held Chamonix, France—because Paris was the site of the 1924 summer games.

World War II Locations

The spread of World War II in the late 1930s put an end to the possibility of either the Summer or Winter Olympics being held in 1940. (Not only were major worldwide cities in ruins, and not able to host sporting events, but people weren’t in an “international brotherhood” kind of mood.) That meant the Japanese capital of Tokyo wouldn’t host the Summer Olympics, nor would Sapporo, Japan, host the cold-weather counterparts. Tokyo would ultimately get the 1964 and 2020 Summer Olympics, while the Olympiad would finally reach Sapporo in 1972.
Before the 1940 Winter Olympics were canceled altogether, they were moved—from Sapporo to the Garmish-Partenkirchen area of Germany. When World War II raged on—in very large part due to Germany, to say the least—the IOC canceled them completely.
Similarly, World War II ended the possibility of the 1944 Winter Olympics, granted in the late ‘30s to Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy. With World War II raging in Europe, Cortina d’Ampezzo wouldn’t get to host until 1956.


Denver is one of the most wintry, Olympic-ready places in the U.S., so it’s surprising the Colorado city has never hosted the Winter Olympics. Well, they were awarded the 1976 Winter Olympics…until voters in 1972 rejected a referendum to pay for them. The IOC had to rescind their deal, and offered them to Whistler, British Columbia, which also said no. Salt Lake City (host of the 2002 Winter Olympics) was interested, but the IOC chose Innsbruck, Austria.


Another seemingly logical locale: Montreal. The French-Canadian routinely bid on the games in the mid-20th century, but lost all four times: for the 1932, 1936, 1944, and 1956 games. More recently, Jaca, Spain has also been rejected four times: for the 1998, 2002, 2010, and 2014 games.

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