The Winter Olympic Games are a winter multi-sport event held every four years. The Games feature winter sports held on snow or ice, such as Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating, bobsledding and ice hockey. Cross-country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, Nordic combined, ski jumping, and speed skating have been competed at every Winter Olympics since 1924.
Other athletic events have been added as the Games have progressed. Some of these events, such as luge, short track speed skating, and freestyle skiing have earned a permanent spot on the Olympic program. Others, like speed skiing, and bandy have been demonstration sports but never incorporated officially as an Olympic sport.
Fewer countries participate in the Winter Olympics than the Summer Olympics. However, the rise of television as a global medium for communication has greatly enhanced the profile of the Games. The Winter Games have also been used by countries to demonstrate the claimed superiority of their political systems.
The United States has hosted the Games four times, more than any other country. France has been host three times. Austria, Canada, Italy, Japan, Norway, and Switzerland have hosted the Games twice. The next Games will be hosted by Sochi, Russia in 2014. This will be the first time that Russia hosts the Winter Olympic Games.