Explore the Olympic cities across America and the world
Does the excitement surrounding the upcoming 2020 Olympics (which were postponed until July 23, 2021) in Tokyo, Japan, have you curious about past games? If so, you've come to the right place! Dive in to learn details about former Olympic host cities across North America, uncover some interesting trivia you can use to impress your friends and find out the locations and years of all previous Olympic games held worldwide.
U.S. Olympic host cities
The modern games as we know them have been occurring since 1896, when fourteen nations, including the United States, competed in 43 events in nine sports. The games move around the globe, and the U.S. has served as host country eight times — four in the summer and four in the winter. Here are the cities that have been home to the Olympics:
Year: 1996 Summer
Number of events: 271 in 26 sports
Notable headlines: The 1996 games were the first time all 197 National Olympic Committees were present at an Olympics. Beach volleyball, mountain biking, lightweight rowing, women's soccer, and softball all debuted. These games were also host to a terrible tragedy when a terrorist bomb exploded in Centennial Olympic Park, killing two people and injuring 110.
Lake Placid, NY
Years: 1932 and 1980 Winter
Number of events: 1932: 14 events in 4 sports; 1980: 38 events in 6 sports
Notable headlines: Only 17 countries competed in the 1932 Games, which were held in the middle of the Great Depression. An unusually warm winter held the bobsleigh final until after the closing ceremonies.
In 1980, Lake Placid was the only place to bid to host the games, and they utilized artificial snow for the first time.
Los Angeles, CA
Years: 1932, 1984 Summer (also slated to host 2028 Summer)
Number of events: 1932: 117 in 14 sports; 1984: 221 in 21 sports
Notable headlines: The 1932 Games went to L.A. by default because no other cities made a bid to host. With the games happening during the Great Depression, President Herbert Hoover was unable to attend. This was the first Olympics where the gold, silver and bronze victory podium was used, and it also set the standard for shorter games (at just 16 days).
In 1984, notable countries like Cuba, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, North Korea, Poland, and the Soviet Union did not attend, citing security concerns (though many thought their absences were politically motivated). Several women's events debuted, including the marathon, rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming and cycling.
Salt Lake City, UT
Year: 2002 Winter
Number of events: 78 events in 7 sports
Notable headlines: Estonia and Croatia won their first medal in the Winter Games, and China and Australia won their first Winter gold medals. President George W. Bush became the first U.S. President to officially open the ceremonies.
Squaw Valley, CA
Year: 1960 Winter
Number of events: 27 events in 4 sports
Notable headlines: The host resort didn't exist until they won the bid and began construction. Men's biathlon and women's speed skating debuted, while bobsleigh was notoriously missing (only nine nations were going to participate, and the Olympic Committee refused to build the bobsleigh run for such a small competition). It was also the first use of instant replay when officials asked CBS to review video of a men's slalom skier.
St. Louis, MO
Year: 1904 Summer
Number of events: 95 events in 16 sports
Notable headlines: These games were initially slated to take place in Chicago but were moved to St. Louis to tie into the World's Fair. Boxing, freestyle wrestling, decathlon and dumbbell events debuted. And most importantly, these were the first games where they awarded gold, silver and bronze medals.
What happens to U.S. venues after the Olympics?
Some are repurposed into training facilities (like Lake Placid), turned into tourist attractions (Salt Lake City) or used as community venues (Atlanta). But many are abandoned and left to decay.
Other North American host cities
Our neighbors to the north have hosted three different Olympic Games:
- 1976 Summer: Montreal, QC
- 1988 Winter: Calgary, AB
- 2010 Winter: Vancouver, BC
Mexico has hosted the Olympics once: the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City.
Fun facts about Olympic cities and games
How many Olympics have there been?
After the 2020 Games, there will have been 52 Olympic Games (29 Summer and 23 Winter) held in 43 cities across 25 countries and five continents.
Why do the games alternate every two years?
When the modern games began in 1896, the Olympics would take place every four years. In 1924, they added Winter Games occurring in the same year, but the Summer Games would often overshadow the smaller Winter Games. Then in 1992, they began alternating them every two years to give the Winter Games their own separate world stage.
How many Olympics have been in the U.S.?
The U.S. has hosted eight Olympics, which is more than any other country!
What was the first U.S. city to host the Olympics?
In 1904, St. Louis became the first American Olympics location.
Has the USA competed in every Olympics?
The United States has appeared at every modern game except 1980 when they boycotted the games in Russia.
When is the last time the Olympics were held in the U.S.?
The 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics were the last ones occurring on U.S. soil.
Have any cities hosted both the Winter and Summer Olympics?
Beijing, China, is the only city to have hosted both the Summer and Winter Games.
What city has hosted the most Olympics?
London has hosted them three times, more than any other city (1908, 1948, 2012). Note: After the 2028 Games, Los Angeles will tie London as a 3-time host.
What's the northernmost city to host the Summer Olympics?
In 1952, Helinski, Finland, was the northernmost location for the Summer Games.
What's the southernmost city to host the Winter Olympics?
In 1998, Nagano, Japan, was home to the Winter Games closest to the equator.
Bonus: Every Olympic location across the world
|1904||Summer||St. Louis, MO, USA|
|1916||Summer||Canceled due to WWI|
|1928||Winter||St. Moritz, Switzerland|
|1932||Winter||Lake Placid, NY USA|
|1932||Summer||Los Angeles, NY USA|
|1940||Winter||Canceled due to WWII|
|1940||Summer||Canceled due to WWII|
|1944||Winter||Canceled due to WWII|
|1944||Summer||Canceled due to WWII|
|1948||Winter||St. Moritz, Switzerland|
|1956||Winter||Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy|
|1960||Winter||Squaw Valley, CA USA|
|1968||Summer||Mexico City, Mexico|
|1972||Summer||Munich, West Germany|
|1980||Winter||Lake Placid, NY USA|
|1980||Summer||Moscow, Soviet Union|
|1984||Summer||Los Angeles, CA USA|
|1988||Summer||Seoul, South Korea|
|1996||Summer||Atlanta, GA USA|
|2002||Winter||Salt Lake City, UT USA|
|2016||Summer||Rio de Janeiro, Brazil|
|2018||Winter||Pyeongchang, South Korea|
|2020||Summer||Tokyo, Japan (postponed until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic)|
|2026||Winter||Milan/Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy|
|2028||Summer||Los Angeles, CA USA|
Share memories of your favorite Olympic city
Does one of these locations stick out in your memory? Or have you visited a U.S. Olympic venue? Let us know which city gets the gold medal for best Olympic memories.
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