Rob Wood

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The Olympics and the Seasons

January 9th, 2015 · No Comments · Olympic Games

On Topend Sports there is a list of Olympic Games Firsts, which inspired a reader, Hank Wisniewski of Austin, Texas, U.S.A., to send me a personal message with some very interesting information I just had to share with you.

He pointed out that the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will be the first to take place entirely in winter (to be held from 5 Aug 2016 to 21 Aug 2016).  A wintertime Summer Olympics is only ever going to be held in the southern hemisphere. The two other southern hemisphere Olympic Games, in Melbourne and Sydney, were held in spring and summer (local time). The 2000 Summer Games in Sydney was held completely during spring (15 September 2000 to 1 October 2000), and the Melbourne Summer Olympics were held over spring and summer (22 Nov 1956 to 8 Dec 1956).

Hank went on with more details about the timing of both the Winter and Summer Olympics.

Here is the rest of his message …

I thought it might be interesting to point out which Summer Olympics took place farthest from the equator and which Winter Olympics were closest to the equator, but after I started organizing the data I realized that since the Olympics have been held at various times of the year, the fact that the sun’s position covers almost 47 degrees of latitude from solstice to solstice makes those other facts irrelevant.  However, following my original thought, I found a web page that calculates the sun’s latitude for any day of the year, and for each Olympics I subtracted from the city’s latitude the sun’s latitude on the date directly between the opening and closing ceremonies.  To my surprise, when I sorted my list according to those angles, there was no overlap between Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics, even though the difference between the lowest sun peak in a Summer Olympics and the highest sun peak in a Winter Olympics is only 3.7 degrees!

The top five Summer Olympics held when and where the sun’s latitude was farthest from the host city’s latitude are…

  1. 1964, Tokyo, Japan (46.0°)
  2. 1972, Munich, West Germany (40.8°)
  3. 1952, Helsinki, Finland (40.8°)
  4. 1988, Seoul, South Korea (39.0°)
  5. 1912, Stockholm, Sweden (37.7°)

The top five Winter Olympics held when and where the sun’s latitude was/will be closest to the host city’s latitude are…

  1. 1960, Squaw Valley, United States (49.7°)
  2. 2018, PyeongChang, South Korea (50.0°)
  3. 1998, Nagano, Japan (50.3°)
  4. 2002, Salt Lake City, United States (53.7°)
  5. 1980, Lake Placid, United States (56.6°)
Winter Olympic Games cauldron in Vancouver, Canada

The Winter Olympic Games cauldron in Vancouver, Canada

While I’m at it, here are the extremes:

The Top Five Summer Olympics When & Where the Sun’s Latitude Was/Will Be Closest to the Host City’s Latitude:

  1. 1996, Atlanta, United States (14.6°)
  2. 1956, Melbourne, Australia (15.8°)
  3. 1984, Los Angeles, United States (16.9°)
  4. 1932, Los Angeles, United States (17.5°)
  5. 2020, Tokyo, Japan (17.8°)

The Top Five Winter Olympics When & Where the Sun’s Latitude Was Farthest from the Host City’s Latitude:

  1. 1994, Lillehammer, Norway (73.1°)
  2. 1952, Oslo, Norway (71.9°)
  3. 1956, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy (64.3°)
  4. 1964, Innsbruck, Austria (64.2°)
  5. 1924, Chamonix, France (64.0°)

By the way, the first Olympics to be held within the tropics were the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City. The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio will be the second time!

Hank has also provided me with the time zones for every Winter and Summer Olympics.

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