Ice and Easy Does It; It's Time to Get Your Skates on for the Winter Olympics as Marion McMullen Looks Back on 90 Years of Sporting Highs and Lows
Byline: Marion McMullen
SINGIN' In The Rain star Gene Kelly was among the first to congratulate Britain's Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean when they returned to competitive ice skating.
Their performance at the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer in 1994 led to the Hollywood star telling them: "I just wanted to say how thrilled I was with your performance in the Olympics. It was ice dancing at it's finest. I just wish I had been a judge."
The duo famously found Winter Olympics glory in Sarajevo in 1984 scoring perfect sixes for their ground-breaking Bolero routine and their victory was watched by more than 24 million television viewers.
But the tournament began may years before Torvill and Dean had strapped on their first pairs of skates.
The first Winter Olympics were inaugurated at the Alpine village of Chamonix in the French Alps on January, 25, 1924.
A total of 258 athletes - 247 men and 11 women - from 16 nations competed in the 11-day sporting event.
The 11 women took part in the figure skating competition... the only sport open to women until Alpine skiing came along in 1936.
Among the countries taking part in the first Winter Olympics were Britain, America, Canada, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Austria, Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia.
More than 80 countries will be taking part in this year's Winter Olympics at Sochi in Russia, but in 1924 it was a much more modest affair with events including Nordic skiing, speed skating, figure skating, ice hockey and bobsledding.
The athletes began by taking part in a parade from Chamonix's City Hall to the Olympic ice skating rink after the opening ceremony in front of 5,000 spectators.
Top skaters from America, Canada, Norway and Finland then held an impromptu race around the rink while a band played the national anthems of the participating nations.
The first medal of the event went to American Charlie Jewtraw after he won the 500 metre speed skating event the next day. Eleven-year-old Norwegian figure skater Sonja Henie also made her Olympic debut.
Finland and Norway dominated the Games winning 28 of the 43 medals awarded. Finland's Clas Thunberg took three gold medals, one silver and one bronze in speed skating, Norway's Roald Larsen took two silver and three bronzes for speed-skating and Thorleif Haug of Norway won three gold medals in cross-country and Nordic combined skiing.
America and Britain each won four medals and Canada took home gold in ice hockey after beating the US 6-1 in the final. …