The Winter Olympic Games are a winter multi-sport event held every four years. They 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, bandy, and skijöring have been demonstration sports but never incorporated officially as an Olympic sport. Fewer countries participate in the Winter Olympics than the Summer Olympics.
The Winter Games have undergone significant changes since their inception. The rise of television as a global medium for communication has greatly enhanced the profile of the Games. It has also created an income stream in the form of the sale of broadcast rights and advertising, which has become very lucrative. This has allowed outside interests, such as television companies and corporate sponsors, to influence various aspects of the Games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has had to address several internal scandals, and the use of performance enhancing drugs by Winter Olympic athletes. The Winter Games have also been used by countries to demonstrate the claimed superiority of their political systems.
Many countries have hosted the Winter Olympics multiple times. 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.