Graphic by: Shoichi Shiomi

Winter Olympic Games 1998


The Torch Relay began with the kindling of the Olympic flame in Greece in December 1997. As the torch traveled around the globe to the site of the 1998 Winter Olympics, international attention turned to the city of Nagano, Japan. The 1998 Olympics was held in the Nagano Prefecture on the Japanese island of Honshu. The Olympics host city of Nagano is located 90 minutes from Tokyo by bullet train. 1998’s games were held at the most southern location ever for the Olympic Winter Games. Besides Nagano City, events were held in Yamanouchi (Shiga Kogen), Hakuba, Karuizawa, and Nozawa Onsen.

These were the last Olympic Winter Games to be held in the 20th century. The Winter Olympics Games featured 7 different Sports that are composed of 39 Men’s events and 29 Women’s events. The sporting events that will made up the 1998 Winter Olympics Games were the Biathlon, Bobsleighing, Curling, Ice Hockey, the Luge, Speed Skating, Short Track Speed Skating, Figure Skating, Cross-Country Skiing, Ski Jumping, Alpine Skiing (Downhill Racing, Slalom, the Giant Slalom, Super Giant Slalom, and Alpine Combination), Freestyle Skiing (Moguls and Aerials), and Snowboarding. The last international games of the century featured competitors from about 80 different countries.

There are many exciting sports to watch at the Winter Olympic Games. Extensive sports coverage was available via the Internet and traditional media sources. The various competitions were held from February 7, 1998 to February 21, 1998. A quick overview of the some of the sporting events that were featured at the Olympic Games is presented here. There are many great other sources of information that can expand on what is provided here.

Figure skating is known as a sport of grace, and beauty. Olympic figure skaters skate to
musical scores and create a kind of ice ballet. The four Olympic Figure Skating events include the Ladies Singles, the Men's Singles, Pairs or Doubles, and Ice Dancing. Singles and Doubles have two distinct forums which are the Short Program and Free Skating. The Short Program is designed to demonstrate a specific set of skating talents . During Free Skating competition, the Olympic skaters perform to music and are allowed to create a more freeform routine. Ice Dancing provides a sequenced dance on ice that is similar to ballroom dancing performed by a pair of skaters. Olympic Figure skating is an event that draws a large audience from around the world.

The Olympic games in Nagano included 5 Speed Skating events for men and 5 events for women. This is a sport that creates the same type excitement as running races in the Summer Olympic games. Speed Skating were held inside an indoor arena. Due to the shape and size of the Speed Skating Race Track, racers on the inside lane have a different centrifugal force than those on the outer lane. Therefore, starting with 1998’s games skaters will be in two races. Each racer will skate once in the inner lane, and another time they will race in the outer lane. The total time from both races will be used to determine the winner.

At 1998’s Olympic games in Japan, Ice Hockey for the first time officially included women's events. Hockey is played on ice and both teams try to score points by hitting a pluck into a netted goal. Each team can have six players on the ice at a time. This is considered a very rough and tumble type of sport, that features hot tempers and raw action. The men's hockey teams have 23 players, while the women's hockey teams play with 20 players. Hockey positions include three forward players, the goalie (goalkeeper), and two defensive players. In 1998, for the first time at Olympic games, professional players from the National Hockey League (NHL) of North America competed at the Olympic Winter Games.

Bobsleigh racing is a men’s only high speed event that requires the competitors possess strength and dexterity. This event features specially design sleighs that race downhill on a ice covered course. There are both 2 person and 4 person Bobsleigh events.

The Luge is another high speed sled race that provides a lot of excitement at Winter Olympic Games. Luge Racers ride one or two person luges laying on their backs and heading feet first down the mountain. There will be three Luge events at this year’s Olympics that will feature women, men, and mixed doubles racing. 1998’s Luge and Bobsleigh track featured a slight uphill section that will made this one of the most difficult tracks in Olympic history.

There are six types of Alpine Skiing events at the Olympic Winter Games. These Alpine Skiing events are Downhill Racing, Slalom, the Giant Slalom, Super Giant Slalom, and Alpine Combination. Downhill Racing is the fastest and most exciting event featured at the Winter Olympic Games. The Slalom, the Giant Slalom, and Super Giant Slalom requires skiers to maneuver skillfully and through a series of gates (poles with flags). These skiing events are the most traditional competitions of the Winter Olympic games.

Freestyle Skiing was introduced to the Olympics one decade ago. This is where skiers perform aerial maneuvers while skiing. The two types of Freestyle Skiing competition are Moguls and Aerials. Moguls are bumps in the snow and skiers will perform a series of mid-air maneuvers and at least two jumps while speeding through the Mogul field. During Aerial competition, racers perform twists in the air and somersaults. This fast paced and exciting sport features modern music to enhance the crowds’ excitement.

Skiing evolved as a form of transportation in Europe. At first, skiing was used to cross large fields of snow and pass through smaller mountain areas. Cross-Country Skiing allows the skier to travel on skis through all types of terrain. Cross-Country Skiing competitions featured ten events at Japan’s Nagano Games, they used both classical and free technique. Men and women competed against each other and the clock, or raced as teams in relay races. During Classical Competitions, only certain techniques of skiing and climbing are permitted. While the Free Technique competitions allow use of all stride varieties. Cross country skiing is a demanding sport that requires good physical conditioning on the part of the athletes.

Two snowboard events were introduced for official competition at the Nagano Games. The two new events are Snowboard Giant Slalom and Snowboard Halfpipe. As in Alpine Skiing, snowboarders race against the clock through the gates of the Giant Slalom course. The Snowboard Halfpipe competition features jumps, rotations and mid-air maneuvers, that are judged by the most difficult maneuvers performed with the best form.

There are many great resources on the Internet to find out more about what happened at the 1998 Winter Olympic Games that were held in Nagano, Japan. You can find these sites by using your favorite Internet search engines or following some of the links on our 1998 Winter Olympic Games Links Page.


Snow Sports Japan by: W. Dire Wolff