Winter athletes first competed in their own Olympic games back in 1924 when 16 nations competed in 18 events in seven sports in Chamonix, France. Since the first Winter Olympics the games have grown tremendously over the last 90 years. In February when Sochi hosts the 22nd Winter Olympics there will be athletes from over 80 countries competing in the games. One of the best ways to see how big and popular the Winter Olympics have become is by looking at the Opening Ceremonies.
The Chamonix opening ceremony was a pretty low key with all of the 258 athletes marching with their teams from city hall to the Olympic ice rink where 5,000 spectators watched. After the games were declared open most the athletes took to the ice to celebrate and hold some informal races.
The parade of athletes has continued to be a fixture of the opening ceremonies and today is one of the most anticipated Olympic events. The 2010 parade of athletes was the largest with a total of 2566 Olympic athletes.
Another one of the favorite events for fans and participants during the opening ceremony is of course the lighting of the Olympic cauldron. An Olympic flame did not appear at the Winter Olympics until 1936 during the Garmisch-Partenkirchen games in Germany. The flame just lit and did not include a torch relay. The Oslo, Norway games in 1952 were the first to have a torch relay which stated at the birthplace of skiing, the Morgedal valley in Norway. Since 1964 the flame lighting has taken place in Olympia just like the summer flame.
With the growth in the Winter Olympics the opening ceremonies have been moved from small ice rinks to event venues then giant stadiums where finding an empty seat is imposable. With the incredible shows that now accompany the athletes and the cauldron lighting who would want to leave their seat? Every four years the Winter Olympic Ceremony always finds a way to amaze and with what Russia is planning and spending the 22nd opening ceremony will be a must-see from whatever time zone you’re in. The opening ceremony this year will be February 7 at 11:14 ET.