2024 is a huge year for the Olympics – & it’s not just about the Paris games

What's coming up in terms of Olympic events and what it means for Australia
Monday 29 January 2024

2024 is a leap year, and in the world of international sport it means something very exciting: it’s an Olympic year. 

For Australians, there is growing excitement about the 2032 games to be held in Brisbane. And between those four-yearly stints, there is also the winter Olympics to keep us entertained.

So let’s take a look at what’s coming up, and what it might mean for Australian athletes and audiences.

The 2024 Paris Olympics

A good example of the growing excitement around this year’s games is the new Australian Olympic television broadcaster, Channel 9, bombarding us with promotional commercials.

With Australia finishing sixth overall at the 2020/21 Tokyo Olympics with 46 medals, there is optimism for another top 10 finish in Paris this year.

2032 Brisbane summer Olympics

Organising a global sporting event such as the Olympics is a massive logistical exercise, so it’s no surprise the organising committee for the Brisbane games has already been set up, despite the games being more than eight years away.

There is growing reluctance for countries to take on the huge financial burden of hosting events like the Olympics. As a result, the planning for 2032 is in full swing with a goal that these games not “break the bank” with expensive facilities, staying within budget and also delivering key legacy goals well after the games finish.

However, some recent disagreement within the infrastructure planning process has led the Queensland state government to instigate a review of the master plan and what it says are the “over the top costs”. These are estimated at $2.7 billion to refurbish the ‘Gabba as the main Olympic stadium, and a new $2.5 billion Brisbane Arena.

With plenty of time to sort out this and other issues, there is confidence that Brisbane will continue the Australian tradition of being a great Olympic host.

2024 Youth Winter Olympics

Starting in 2010, the Youth Olympic Games (summer and winter) for athletes aged from 15 to 18 were added to the Olympic schedule. The fourth Youth Winter Olympics are being held in Gangwon, South Korea, from January 19 to February 1 2024. With over 70 nations, 81 events and 1,900 athletes participating, this youth-based event is growing in stature and popularity.

Australia has its largest representation ever, with a record 47 athletes competing in eight disciplines, including the first all-Australian ice hockey team. In the previous three youth games, Australia has won seven medals. We can expect more in Korea.

Interestingly, there will be significant media coverage on 9Now, Stan Sport and the AOC website as well as Australian Olympic team social channels, highlighting how this multi-sport event has grown in popularity.

100th anniversary of the first Winter Olympics

Of special Olympic significance is that January 25 marks the 100th anniversary of the Winter Olympics. The first Winter Olympics were held in Chamonix, France, in 1924. This rather modest event, held over 11 days, had 258 athletes from six participating nations competing in 16 different events in five sports.

While initially a poor cousin of the summer games, the winter edition gradually expanded and improved its profile. At the 2022 Beijing games, the numbers expanded to 2,092 athletes, seven sports, 15 disciplines, 109 events and 91 nations, including those with little or no history in winter sports.

This growth resulted for several reasons: adding in lots of new sports and events, pressure from the X Games and its appeal to a youth audience, adding sports that are television-friendly, promoting gender balance, increased corporate and sponsorship funding and, starting in 1994, putting the winter games on a new cycle of even years between the summer games.

Australia’s Winter Olympics journey

Australia is not the first nation that springs to mind when considering the Winter Olympics due to its warm climate. We always perform extremely well at the summer games, ranking 14th with 566 medals in 2021. While we will likely never replicate this placing in the winter games, there has been significant improvement.

Australia was not represented at the 1924 Winter Olympics 100 years ago. In 1936, it participated in its first Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, with just one competitor, speed skater Kenneth Kennedy.

However, after a sluggish and inconsistent history in the winter games, we won our first medal in 1994. Since then, we have won medals at every games and our world rank has risen to 25th with 19 medals.

Our winter Olympians have produced a number of exciting performances, with several athletes winning two medals. These include Alisa Camplin and Lydia Lassila in aerial skiing, Dale Begg-Smith in mogul skiing, Torah Bright in the half-pipe and Scotty James in snowboarding.

By far our most famous medallist is Steven Bradbury, who won a bronze medal in team speed skating in 1994 and then our first ever gold medal in the same sport at the 2002 Salt Lake City games. He won in unconventional fashion, shooting forward from the back of the pack to win after all the leaders collided and fell.

His triumph, dubbed the “accidental gold”, became legendary and part of Olympic lore. It also entered the vernacular: “to do a Bradbury” means to win in an unusual and unexpected circumstance. Bradbury’s achievements have been recognised with an ice rink named after him at the O’Brien Icehouse in Melbourne.

To support its athletes, Australia has made investments in winter sports infrastructure and athlete development.

The Olympic Winter Institute of Australia was set up in 1998, funded by the Australian Olympic Committee and the Australian Sports Commission. It has been a major reason for our increased Olympic success. The purpose of this investment is to develop talent and increase the nation’s ability to compete in the Winter Olympics.

In addition, the media, the corporate sector and the public are now also on board the winter Olympic bandwagon.

The next winter games in Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo in 2026 represent a good chance for our best-ever medal haul.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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