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On This Date in Sports February 12, 1994: Jumping Start

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The era of the staggered Olympics begins with the opening ceremonies of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. The International Olympic Committee had voted in 1986 to separate the winter and summer games. Instead of both events in the same year, they would alternate every two years. The opening ceremonies in Lillehammer were highlighted by a daring ski jump with the Olympic flame as Crown Prince Haakon Magnus lit the cauldron.


The Winter Olympics were first held in 1924 as a companion to the summer games and held in the same country. As the Olympic games grew and more events were added, it became more challenging to manage both events during the same calendar year. In 1986, the International Olympic Committee voted to stagger the games to handle both events better and grow the Olympic movement. While the Summer Olympics remained on the same four-year schedule, the move of the winter games led to a short two-year gap between the 1992 games in Albertville, France, and the 1994 games in Lillehammer, Norway.

The opening ceremonies in Lillehammer were held at the Ski Jump arena, with the ski jump providing the most dramatic moment. Moments before Norway’s Crown Prince Haakon Magnus lit the cauldron; the Olympic Flame entered with a daring ski jump by Stein Gruben. Gruben was a last-minute replacement for Ole Gunnar Fidjestol, who was injured during training.

The winter games in Lillehammer would last 16 days, with 1,737 athletes from 67 nations participating in 61 different medal events. Host Norway won more medals than any other nation, with 26 as Russia won the most Gold Medals with 11. The United States had a mediocre showing at the Lillehammer games, winning 13 medals, six of which were Gold.