Road To The Olympic Games

1948 St. Moritz, Switzerland

The 1948 Winter Olympics were heralded as an emblem of new world peace and good will, but organizers, athletes and fans couldn't escape the after-effects of a bloody global conflict that had caused the cancellation of the Games in 1940 and 1944.

Organizers couldn't escape the after-effects of a bloody global conflict

The 1948 Winter Olympics were heralded as an emblem of new world peace and good will. (Getty Images)

The Numbers

  • Number of nations: 28
  • Number of athletes: 669 (77 women, 592 men)
  • Number of sports: 7
  • Number of events: 22
  • Number of games the Canadian men's hockey team lost: 0
  • Number of games the Czechoslovak men's hockey team lost: 0
  • Team that won the men's hockey gold medal: Canada, because the Canadians scored two more goals overall than the Czechs  

The 1948 Winter Olympics were heralded as an emblem of new world peace and good will, but organizers, athletes and fans couldn't escape the after-effects of a bloody global conflict that had caused the cancellation of the Games in 1940 and 1944.

International Olympic Committee officials decided to hold the 1948 Games in St. Moritz, Switzerland. The country hadn't suffered physical scars from the war because it had been neutral during the conflict and sports facilities used during the 1928 St. Moritz Games remained intact.

Still, the war's impact on the event was undeniable. The Axis powers of Germany and Japan weren't permitted to participate, and Stalinist Russia declined to take part. The ranks of the once dominant Norwegian Nordic ski team had been depleted by the war, while the Swedes, who had remained neutral during the war, swept the medals in Nordic events. Many Olympic competitors had to use substandard equipment.

Barbara Ann Scott

Barbara Ann Scott became the first Canadian to win a gold medal in Olympic figure skating in St. Mortiz, Switzerland. ((Getty Images))
Canada's Scott won her first junior national title at the age of 11. Two years later, in 1942, she became the first female ever to land a double Lutz in competition. The Ottawa native won four straight North American championships. Then, in 1947, she became the first North American to claim the European and World Figure Skating Championships.

Her hometown of Ottawa presented her with a car in recognition of her accomplishments, but she had to turn down the gift to retain her amateur status and remain eligible to compete in the St. Moritz Games. After her victory there, Scott accepted a car with a license plate that read: 48-U-1. Scott's legacy is that her success galvanized a dispirited nation after the Second World War. She made another important contribution to Canadian society by inspiring the creation of the Barbara Ann Scott doll, one of Barbie's more athletic predecessors.

Nonetheless, many athletes excelled in St. Moritz and garnered much acclaim.

Barbara Ann Scott performed her free skate on an ice surface riddled with holes and ruts, thanks to two morning hockey games. Despite all obstacles, Scott put on a solid show and became the first Canadian to win a gold medal in Olympic figure skating. American Dick Button was the first American to do the same. He also became the first skater to land a double Axel at the Winter Games. Button went on to win another gold at the 1952 Winter Games.

The American men's bobsleigh team won medals even though two of their sleighs had to be repaired after being sabotaged. The winter pentathlon, which consisted of cross country skiing, shooting, downhill skiing, fencing and horse riding, was held as a demonstration sport at these Games for the first and last time.

Slalom and downhill skiing events were included for the first time at St. Moritz. France's Henri Oreiller won gold in the downhill and a bronze in the slalom.

Norway and Sweden led the medal count. Each country took home four gold, three silver and three bronze medals of the 13 countries that won medals. Canada placed eighth, winning two golds and a bronze.

Canada's performance

Ottawa teenager Barbara Ann Scott was Canada's brightest light at the 1948 Games. Wearing a hand-sewn cream-coloured fur dress, she won seven of the nine first-place votes and took home the gold in figure skating.

Canadian medallists

  • Men's hockey team: gold
  • Barbara Ann Scott (figure skating): gold
  • Suzanne Morrow and Wallace Diestelmeyer (figure skating): bronze

Canadians Suzanne Morrow and Wallace Diestelmeyer won the bronze medal in the pairs figure skating competition. They were the first to perform the so-called "death spiral" in international competition.

The Canadian men's hockey team won the gold medal, even though before the Games it wasn't sure it would complete in the 1948 Games. The Canadian Amateur Hockey Association felt it couldn't assemble a first-rate team with players who would be considered amateur under Olympic guidelines.

So, a Royal Canadian Air Force squadron leader assembled a team under the RCAF banner. Players from Canadian universities and senior leagues were recruited to become the "RCAF Flyers." The Canadians beat Switzerland 3-0 in the finals. They received a hero's welcome, with a parade and thumping marching bands, when they returned to Ottawa.

CountryGoldSilverBronzeTotal
1. Norway43310
1. Sweden43310
3. Switzerland34310
4. U.S.3429
5. Austria1348
8. CANADA2013