Fact of the Day

The vital role played by Frank Spencer in Torvill and Dean gold medal

When British skaters Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean won the Olympic gold medal in ice dance at Sarajevo 1984 with 12 perfect 6.0s from every judge, for their interpretation of Maurice Ravel's Boléro, an important member of their team was singer-actor Michael Crawford. Crawford, who had played Frank Spencer in British sitcom Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em and the title role in the musical The Phantom of the Opera, had become a mentor to the pair in 1981 and went on to help them create their Olympic routine. Crawford said he “taught them how to act". He was present with their trainer Betty Callaway at the ringside at Sarajevo as they created one of the most iconic moments in Olympic history.

Killy hat-trick at Grenoble 1968 overshadowed by controversy

France’s Jean-Claude Killy won the "Triple Crown" of Alpine skiing at the 1968 Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble with a sweep of all three gold medals - the downhill, giant slalom and slalom. But his achievement was not without controversy in an affair that even the International Olympic Committee bills as the "greatest controversy in the history of the Winter Olympics." The slalom run was held in poor visibility and Austrian skier Karl Schranz claimed a course patrolman crossed his path during the slalom race, causing him to stop. Schranz was given a restart and posted the fastest time. A Jury of Appeal then reviewed the television footage, declared that Schranz had missed a gate on the upper part of the first run, annulled his repeat run time, and gave the medal to Killy.

Schneemann was the first official mascot of the Winter Olympic Games

The first official mascot of the Winter Olympic Games was at Innsbruck in 1976 and was called Schneemann, a snowman in a traditional red Tyrolean hat. Designed by Walter Pötsch, Schneemann was purported to represent the 1976 Games as the "Games of Simplicity". It was also regarded as a good-luck charm, to avert the dearth of snow that had marred the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck. The public's opinion of Schneemann was divided, but its financial success was indisputable. In addition to the tee-shirts, soft toys and the other items Schneemann inspired, individuals in large costume versions became "living mascots" at promotional events. There were objects with Schneemann holding a hockey stick or wearing skis and boots. This practice of representing the mascot in various poses and practicing multiple sports has become customary.

Ulrich Salchow, such a good skater they named a jump after him

The first Olympic figure skating champion was Sweden’s Ulrich Salchow, winner at London 1908 when the sport was included as part of the Summer Games. Salchow, the winner of seven World Championships titles before the Olympics, easily won the gold medal. The Danish-born Swede won another three world titles after London 1908. In 1909, Salchow landed a jump in competition in which he took off on the back inside edge and landed on the back outside edge of his other foot. This jump is now known as the Salchow jump in his honour. After his competitive days, Salchow remained active in the sport and was President of the International Skating Union from 1925 until 1937.

American bobsled hero killed in the Battle of Britain

At the 1928 Winter Olympics in St Moritz, as driver of the first five-man team, 16-year-old Billy Fiske became the youngest gold medallist in any winter sport, a record not eclipsed until 1992 by ski jumper Toni Nieminen. Fiske competed again at the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, where he carried the United States flag at the Opening Ceremony, and took another gold in the four-man event. Fiske was invited, but declined to lead the bobsled team in the 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany. It is believed by some that this decision was due to his disagreeing with the politics in Germany at the time, which may also explain his later decision to be one of the first Americans to actively participate in the Second World War. He travelled to the United Kingdom and joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, claiming Canadian citizenship in order to be permitted to enlist. He participated as a pilot in the Battle of Britain until he was killed in action in August 1940. He was aged just 29.

Before biathlon, there was the military patrol event

Biathlon made its Olympic debut at Squaw Valley in 1960 but before that, there was the military patrol event held at four Winter Games, although medals were only awarded for its first appearance at Chamonix in 1924. It was a demonstration event at St. Moritz in 1928 and 1948 and Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936. The official website of the International Olympic Committee now treats men's military patrol at Chamonix 1924 as a separate discipline, without mixing it with the sports of skiing or biathlon. The 1924 Official Report, however, treats it as an event within the sport of skiing. Each team had four people and the distance was 25 kilometres. The targets were balloons at 150 metres. The winners were Switzerland, who finished ahead of runners-up Finland and third-placed France.

Norway have been the number Winter Olympic nation since the start

Norway has competed in every Winter Olympics since the first one at Chamonix in 1924. Their team of 14 athletes won 17 medals, including four gold, to finish top - a position they have not relinquished in the near 100 years since. Before the start of Beijing 2022, they had won a total of 368 medals, including 132 gold, leaving them a long way clear of nearest rivals United States. More than half of these medals have come from cross-country skiing and speed skating. Norway is one of only three nations - along with Austria and Liechtenstein - to have won more medals at the Winter Games than at the Summer edition.

Short track speed skating made its Olympic debut at Albertville 1992

Short track speed skating was introduced as a demonstration sport at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. It was upgraded to a full Olympic sport at Albertville 1992 and has been part of the Winter Olympics ever since. There were only four short track events in 1992, but the programme was expanded to include six events at Lillehammer 1994 and Nagano 1998, and finally eight events at Salt Lake City 2002. The events are the same for both men and women: 500 metres, 1000m, 1500m, plus the relay event - 5000m for men, 3000m for women. A 2000m mixed team relay was added, and made its debut at Beijing 2022, with host nation China claiming the gold medal.

King of the Nordic events at the first Winter Olympics at Chamonix 1924

At the first Winter Olympic Games in Chamonix in 1924, Norway’s Thorleif Haug won all three Nordic skiing events - the 18 and 50 kilometres cross-country and the Nordic combined. He was also awarded the bronze medal in ski jumping. But 50 years later a mistake was found in the calculation of the scores by Norwegian sports historian Jacob Vaage and Haug was demoted to fourth place. It meant Anders Haugen, an American born in Norway, was promoted to third place. In September 1974, Haugen returned to Norway as an 86-year-old and was given the bronze medal by Anna Maria Magnussen, Haug's youngest daughter.

The Olympic Opening Ceremony organised by Walt Disney

Walt Disney was chairman of the Pageantry Committee at the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley and responsible for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies at Blyth Memorial Arena. He organised an opening that included 5,000 entertainers, the release of 2,000 pigeons, and a military gun salute of eight shots, one for each of the previous Winter Olympics. The Ceremony was delayed by an hour due to heavy snow but was still a great success. The festivities began with a sustained drum roll as the flags of each participating nation were raised on specially designed flag poles. Vice-president Richard Nixon represented the United States Government and declared the Games open.

Denver become only city in Olympic history to withdraw as hosts

Denver were awarded the 1976 Winter Olympic Games ahead of Sion in Switzerland, Tempere in Finland and Vancouver in Canada at the International Olympic Committee Session in 1970. But in a Colorado referendum in November 1972, voters rejected funding for the event. It is the only time a city has been awarded the Olympics but pulled out. The IOC then offered the Games to Whistler in Canada, but they too declined owing to a change of Government following elections. Salt Lake City offered to host the Games, but the IOC, still reeling from the Denver rejection, declined and selected Innsbruck, the 1964 host city, as a replacement.

Canadian show jumper holds record for most Olympic appearances

Canadian show jumper Ian Millar holds the record for the most Olympic appearances by an athlete in any sport. When he competed at London 2012 at the age of 65 it was the tenth time he had competed in the Games since making his debut 30 years earlier at Munich 1972. He had won his only Olympic medal at Beijing 2008 when he was part of Canada’s team that took silver in the team jumping event. Millar won a gold medal in the Pan American Games team jumping event at Toronto 2015. He announced his retirement in 2019.

Only two athletes in Summer Olympic history have won medals competing for different countries

Two athletes have won Summer Olympic gold medals competing for two different nations. Daniel Carroll first won gold in rugby union representing Australia at London 1908 and then again at Antwerp 1920 for the United States after he had stayed in the country following a tour there. The Georgian-born Kakhi Kakhiashvili won his first gold medal in men’s weightlifting under-90 kilograms competing as part of the Unified Team at Barcelona 1992 and later as a Greek citizen at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 in the under-99kg and under-94kg categories.

Indian hockey team set records as they dazzle at Los Angeles 1932

The Olympic hockey tournament at Los Angeles 1932 created a couple of records that still stand, including the biggest score in an international match when India beat the hosts the United States 24-1. The match was also notable for the greatest number of goals scored in a single match as Roop Singh hit 10. The US scored their only goal when the Indian goalkeeper Richard Allen was signing autographs for the crowd. Out of the 35 goals India scored in their two matches to win the gold medal, Singh scored 15 and his brother, Dhyan Chand, 10. Journalists voted the team's performances at the Games as "the most outstanding exhibition of skill in any sport".

Taylor becomes first African American to win an Olympic gold medal

John Baxter Taylor Jr. was the first African American to win an Olympic gold medal. Born in Washington D.C. to former slaves, Taylor was a member of the gold medal-winning men's medley relay team at the 1908 Olympics in London. He ran the third leg, performing the 400 metres. Less than five months after returning from London, Taylor died of typhoid fever on December 2, 1908 at the age of 26. The New York Times called him “the world's greatest negro runner”.