A History of Winter Olympic Logos, Controversies, and Surprises

Greg,

It’s that time again when the Winter Olympics takes over our collective consciousness, and we create new memories around the drama, the culture, and the icons.

To gear up for this year’s big event in PyeongChang, we took a look at every logo design from the Winter Games since 1924. Here are our top ten picks!

Ready for even more Olympics trivia? Take a trip through the years to learn about the highs and lows of every Winter Games in our interactive timeline. You’ll also see the evolution of Olympic logos created for the masses.

So whether you’re standing at the company coffee maker, hitting the buzzer at your next trivia event, or serving Olympic onion rings at your Games-themed party, you’ll be armed with insider insights.


1924

The Controversy

Only 11 female athletes competed out of 258 athletes.

The Surprise

These first Winter Olympic Games featured only 16 events, in comparison to the 102 events being held in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Logo inspiration

The inaugural Winter Games used a poster instead of a logo. The style was inspired by 1920s French art trends, featuring a bobsled team in action with the French mountains in the background.

1928

The Controversy

Fluctuating weather conditions made these Olympics memorable; the opening ceremonies were held in a blizzard. In contrast, warm weather conditions plagued the remainder of the Games, requiring cancellations of one event.

The Surprise

Switzerland only won a single bronze medal at the 1928 Winter Games, the lowest output by a host nation at an Olympics.

Logo inspiration

Like the 1924 Winter Games, the 1928 Olympics went with a poster for their visual marketing. It paired Switzerland’s spectacular landmark -- snowy mountains -- with an Olympic flag and a Swiss flag.

1932

The Controversy

Safety was not taken as seriously in 1932, with bobsledders using wooden toboggans.

The Surprise

The Games were opened by Franklin D. Roosevelt, then the Governor of New York. He was elected President of the United States nine months later.

Logo inspiration

These were the first Winter Olympics to embrace a classic logo design, with a mid-air ski jumper in the foreground and a map of the United States with Lake Placid in the background.

1936

The Controversy

With the introduction of Alpine skiing events into the Winter Games in 1936, the IOC declared that ski instructors could not complete because they were professionals. Incensed, Austrian and Swiss skiers boycotted the events.

The Surprise

These games had the largest and heaviest medals ever awarded to athletes: 100 mm in diameter, 4 mm thick, and weighing 324 grams (about 0.7 lbs).

Logo inspiration

The logo comprises the Olympic rings in the foreground and the summit of the Garmisch-Partenkirchen Alps -- with a ski track leading to the mountains -- in the background.

1948

The Controversy

Germany and Japan weren’t invited to the 1948 Winter Games; they were ostracized by the world for their role in World War II.

The Surprise

Norwegian skiers had to borrow skis from the American team in order to compete.

Logo inspiration

Returning to a poster format, visual marketing for the 1948 Winter Olympics was supposed to resemble a travel brochure cover.

1952

The Controversy

In their first invitation to compete in the Winter Olympics since World War II, West Germany attended the Games, but East Germany declined.

The Surprise

The 1952 Winter Games were the first to be held in a nation’s capital.

Logo inspiration

The logo for these Winter Games was the winning design from a public competition. It contained the Olympic rings in the center with the silhouette of the new Town Hall of Oslo.

1956

The Controversy

A lack of snow at the alpine skiing events required the Italian army to transport in large amounts of it to ensure coverage of the ski courses.

The Surprise

For the first time in the history of the Games, a female athlete swore the Olympic Oath: the skier Giuliana Chenal Minuzzo.

Logo inspiration

The logo for the 1956 Winter Olympics was a stylized snowflake with the five rings surmounted by a star in the middle, representing the emblem of the Italian National Olympic Committee.

1960

The Controversy

It cost $80 million to build all of the Olympic venues for these Winter Games.

The Surprise

It was the first and only time bobsled was not a Winter Olympic event, as the 1960 Winter Games organizers did not have the budget to build a bobsled track.

Logo inspiration

This logo represented the spirit of the Games with American patriotism, with three triangles and the Olympic rings. The triangles were meant to create the image of a star or snowflake.

1964

The Controversy

A normally snowy Innsbruck was threatened by a lack of snow. The Austrian army carved out 20,000 ice bricks from a mountaintop and transported them to the bobsled and luge runs, and delivered 40,000 cubic meters of snow to the Alpine skiing courses.

The Surprise

Computers made their debut at the Winter Games for scoring and scheduling.

Logo inspiration

The white form, derived from the coat of arms of Innsbruck, is not obvious to the average viewer.

1968

The Controversy

Three East German competitors in the women's luge event were disqualified for illegally heating their runners before each run.

The Surprise

Vladimir Belousov (USSR) and Jiri Raska (TCH) were first and second in the large-hill ski jump, setting the bar at 100 meters for the first time in Olympic history.

Logo inspiration

The logo represents a snow crystal amongst three red roses which is the symbol of Grenoble, and the five Olympic rings in monochrome.

1972

The Controversy

Austrian skier Karl Schranz was declared ineligible because he had allowed his name and photo to be used in commercial advertising.

The Surprise

"Paquito" Fernandez Ochoa won the slalom by a full second. His gold medal was the first ever to be awarded to a Spanish athlete in the Olympic Winter Games.

Logo inspiration

The 1972 Winter Games logo represents three independent elements: the Rising Sun (the symbol of Japan), a snowflake (sketch of the coat of arms of an ancient Japanese family), and the Olympic rings with the inscription “Sapporo ’72.”

1976

The Controversy

The 1976 Winter Games were initially awarded to Denver, but the state of Colorado voted to prohibit public funds from being used to support the Games. Innsbruck offered to step in; the city had previously hosted the Games 12 years earlier.

The Surprise

Ice dancing debuted as a full medal discipline and was dominated by the Russian figure skaters.

Logo inspiration

The logo encompasses the coat of arms of the city of Innsbruck, showing the bridge on the Inn which gives the city its name. The bridge and the five Olympic rings symbolize the ties of friendship binding the young athletes of all nations.

1980

The Controversy

The plans to convert the Olympic dormitory facilities into a state prison (FCI, Ray Brook) after the Games. Legal history was made when the National Moratorium on Prison Construction won a court ruling allowing its use of the Olympic symbol on a poster.

The Surprise

American speed skater Eric Heiden won all five speed skating events, setting an Olympic record in every one. He became the first person in Olympic history to win five gold medals in individual events at the same Games.

Logo inspiration

The chevrons on the right represent the mountains around the Olympic region, which join the vertical lines of the modified Ionic column on the left, recalling the predecessors of the modern Olympics. The tops of the columns turn into the Olympic rings; this serration symbolizes a double Olympic cauldron, to commemorate the Games held in Lake Placid in 1932.

1984

The Controversy

The Olympic flag was raised upside down during the opening ceremony by mistake.

The Surprise

British figure skaters Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean mesmerized the judges (and the world) with their interpretation of Maurice Ravel's “Bolero.” The judges awarded them perfect 6.0 scores across the board for artistic impression.

Logo inspiration

The logo symbolizes a stylized snowflake with the Olympic rings above. It also features the traditional design of the embroidery produced in the Sarajevo region.

1988

The Controversy

Up to 50% of seats to top Olympic events were sold to IOC insiders in advance, in contrast to the IOC announcing to the public that only 10% of tickets would be sold to IOC insiders.

The Surprise

This was the debut year of the men’s Jamaican Bobsled team, inspiring the movie “Cool Runnings.”

Logo inspiration

The 1988 Winter Games logo was a stylized snowflake above the Olympic rings, and could also be interpreted as a stylized maple leaf. It was composed of different sized Cs, representing Canada and Calgary’s first letter.

1992

The Controversy

U.S. bobsledder Todd Snavely is displaced from the Olympic team after an additional set of trials were held closer to the Winter Games and is compensated thousands of dollars.

The Surprise

At the 1992 Winter Games, there were two Unified teams -- one for Germany and another one for the former Soviet republics.

Logo inspiration

The logo consists of an Olympic flame in the colors of the Savoie region, and is an element of the visual identity of the Albertville Games, which had to meet three main objectives: highlight the mountain site, modernity, and sports.

1994

The Controversy

Jeff Gillooly, the then-husband of U.S. figure skater Tonya Harding, arranged an attack on her U.S. rival, Nancy Kerrigan, a month before the Games. Both women competed, with Kerrigan winning the silver and Harding performing poorly. Harding was later banned for life both from competing in USFSA-sanctioned events and from becoming a sanctioned coach.

The Surprise

Russia won the most gold medals, while Norway won the most medals overall.

Logo inspiration

The logo included a stylized aurora borealis (northern lights), a natural phenomenon in Norway due to its northerly position, along with the five Olympic rings, snow crystals, and the title "Lillehammer '94" in a serif font.

1998

The Controversy

Snowboarder Ross Rebagliati's was disqualified after marijuana was found in his system, and his gold medal was stripped. The IOC reinstated the medal days later.

The Surprise

For the first time, NHL players were allowed to participate in men’s ice hockey; these Games also saw the introduction of women’s hockey.

Logo inspiration

This logo began with a flower, with each petal representing an athlete practicing a winter sport and the enthusiastic atmosphere of the Games. The emblem is also evocative of a mountain flower, emphasizing Nagano's commitment to the environment.

2002

The Controversy

Two gold medals were awarded in pairs figure skating rather than one gold and one silver. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board decided to award Canadians Jamie Salé and David Pelletier a gold medal in the figure skating pairs competition, following a judging controversy.

The Surprise

The skeleton event was re-added to the Winter Games for the first time since 1928.

Logo inspiration

The logo was a stylized snow crystal in bright yellow, orange, and blue -- colors found in the Utah landscape. Under the picture, on top of the Olympic rings, are the words "Salt Lake 2002" in all caps. The theme conveyed by these graphic elements is threefold: contrast, culture, and courage.

2006

The Controversy

Members of the Austrian biathlon team had their Olympic Village residences raided by Italian authorities investigating doping charges.

The Surprise

Canadian Duff Gibson switched from bobsleigh to skeleton in 1998 and finished 10th in Salt Lake City. At the Turin Games, he beat everyone, and at the age of 39-and-a-half years old, became the oldest athlete in the history of the Winter Games to win a gold medal in an individual event.

Logo inspiration

The logo portrays the unmistakable silhouette of the Mole Antonelliana. It is transformed into a mountain among crystals of ice, where the white snow meets the blue sky. The crystals come together to form a web to represent the web of new technologies and the eternal Olympic spirit of communion among peoples.

2010

The Controversy

Nunavut Commissioner Peter Irniq found the logo culturally insensitive, stating “Inuit never built inuksuit with head, legs, and arms.”

The Surprise

For the first time since 1994, a male figure skater was awarded the gold medal without performing a quadruple jump (it went to Evan Lysacek of the U.S.).

Logo inspiration

The logo featured an inukshuk, a traditional stone sculpture used by Canada's Inuit people. Two pillars serve as the legs in support of the body, a horizontal shape acts as the arm, and an eagle is where the head would normally be. The form stands over the wordmark and the five Olympic rings.

2014

The Controversy

The 2014 Winter Games marked the most expensive Olympics in history -- the cost was approximately $51 billion USD.

The Surprise

These Games introduced several new events, such as the figure skating team event, women’s ski jumping, mixed relay biathlon, ski half-pipe, and team relay luge.

Logo inspiration

The logo was designed to be minimalistic and futuristic, consisting only of typefaces with no drawn elements. The “Sochi” and “2014” letters are meant to mirror each other, reflecting the contrasts of Russia’s landscape. It also included .ru, the top-level web domain of Russia.

2018

The Controversy

Accusations of state-sponsored doping from Russia has challenged whether Russian athletes can even compete in the upcoming Games.

The Surprise

North Korea’s athletes will march alongside South Korea’s athletes under a unification flag.

Logo inspiration

The square represents the harmony between heaven, earth, and man. The star represents the athletes and is similar to a character in the Korean alphabet meaning snow or ice.
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