Nordic Games poster (1901)

Conceived in 1899 by Viktor Balck of the ‘Swedish Central Association for the Promotion of Sports’ and held at varying intervals between 1901-1926, the Nordic Games were the first international multi-sport event that focused primarily on winter sports – as well as a precursor to the modern Winter Olympic Games. Balck, also one of the five original members of the ‘International Olympic Committee’ and President of the ‘International Skating Union’, is quoted as saying “the Nordic Games have now become a national concern for our entire people”, and indeed they began as an effort to bolster both Swedish national sentiment along with Swedish tourism: in fact, in addition to snow and ice related sports, the games featured Swedish cultural events such as theatre, opera and folklore, and tourist attractions were also highlighted. The Nordic Games (‘Nordiska Spel’ in Swedish) consisted of the winter sports that were popular in Scandinavia: ski jumping, downhill racing, cross-country skiing, skeleton, speed skating, figure skating, hockey (bandy) and curling. Non-winter sports like fencing, swimming and a long-distance equestrian ride were also included. Other sports (rarer or less commonly considered as winter sports today) were also included: horse-driven sledding, glima, hunting, skijoring, military sports, car racing, motorcycle racing, ballooning, kick-sled, and pulka racing. All editions of the games were held in Stockholm (except edition II (1903) that took place in Oslo – then Kristiania) and included competitors from the Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and Norway. These countries were opposed to the establishment of a separate Winter Olympics, but a series of events (Norway abandoning the games due to conflicts with Sweden; the death of Viktor Balck in 1928; the 1930 edition being cancelled for the lack of snow; the great international success of the Winter Olympics) lead to the Nordic Games being discontinued definitively.

Nordic Games editions: I (1901), II (1903), III (1905), IV (1909), V (1913), VI (1917), VII (1922), VIII (1926).