Geography of the Winter Olympic Games

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The Winter Olympics are usually hosted every four years at a different location chosen by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Learn about the Olympic Winter Games’ geography.

How Frequently Are the Winter Olympics Held?

In 1924, the first modern Winter Olympics were held in Chamonix, France. With the exception of the 1940 and 1944 games, which were canceled due to World War II, the Winter Olympics have been held every almost four years thereafter.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to stage the Winter and Summer Olympics in alternate even years in 1986. This meant that the next Winter Olympics following the 1992 games was held in 1994.

Where in the World Have the Winter Olympics Been Held?

The Winter Olympics have only ever been staged on three continents in the Northern Hemisphere: Europe, Asia, and North America.

The United States has held four Winter Olympics, followed by France, which has hosted three times. The Winter Olympics have been held twice in Austria, Canada, Japan, Italy, Norway, and Switzerland. Germany and Yugoslavia both held the Winter Olympics once.

How Many Countries Compete in the Winter Olympics?

The number of countries competing in each Winter Olympic Games fluctuates. The first modern Winter Olympics were staged in 1924, with 16 countries taking part.

Since then, the number of countries competing in the Winter Olympics has continuously expanded. At the 2014 Winter Olympics, 90 countries will be represented.

The Parade of Nations, which takes place during the opening ceremonies, is always headed by Greek athletes in remembrance of the Olympic Games’ roots.

The Olympic team representing the host country is always the last to march in the parade.

Only twelve countries have competed in all 21 Winter Olympics: Austria, Canada, Finland, France, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States.

In total, 119 countries have competed in at least one Winter Olympics.

Where was the 2014 Winter Olympics Held?

In February 2014, the 22nd Winter Olympics were held in Sochi, Russia. This was Russia’s first time hosting the Winter Olympics. Russia previously hosted the Summer Olympics in 1980, which were held in Moscow.

Night time view of Sochi on February 10, 2014. Photo: ISS via NASA.
Night time view of Sochi on February 10, 2014. Photo: ISS via NASA.

According to, the location is one of the most compact Olympic venues, with the distance between the coastline portion of the games in Sochi and the mountain portions in the Krasnaya Polyana Mountains being no more than 30 minutes.

Where Were the 2018 Winter Olympic Games Held?

The 2018 Winter Games were hosted in Pyeongchang, South Korea. This was the first time South Korea hosted a Winter Olympics. The Summer Olympics were held in Seoul in 1988.

 Satellite image of northeastern cities of Pyeongchang and Gangneung, South Korea.
In 2018, South Korea hosted the Winter Olympics in the northeastern cities of Pyeongchang and Gangneung. Satellite image of the region, NASA, January 26, 2018.

The Winter Olympic Games, held every four years, give opportunity for world-class athletes from all around the world to compete in a range of winter sports.

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