History Book: The Winter Olympics turn 100 | WORLD
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

History Book: The Winter Olympics turn 100


WORLD Radio - History Book: The Winter Olympics turn 100

Plus, Phil Knight founds Blue Ribbon Sports and “Octomom” gives birth to eight babies

A man carries the American flag, as the United States is represented during opening ceremonies for the I Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France, Jan. 25, 1924. Associated Press/File

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, January 22nd.Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Up next, the WORLD History Book. Fifteen years ago a mother successfully gives birth to octuplets.

EICHER: And the anniversary of a popular athletic shoe brand.

REICHARD: But we begin with the stories of the first and last medals of the 1924 Winter Olympics. Here’s WORLD Radio Executive Producer Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER: It’s January 25th, 1924, and American speed skater Charles Jewtraw laces up his well worn skates. He and twenty-six speed skating competitors are paired up and prepare to face off in the mountain village of Chamonix, France. Athletes from around the world gather for a chance to compete against the best of the best.

Wearing wooly mittens and a stocking cap, Jewtraw glides to the starting line. Jewtraw is calm and collected, but he’s resigned to the fact that he doesn’t have a chance. He admits to Sports Illustrated that he hadn’t adequately trained and didn’t really want to be there.

In the moment before the starting flag, he bows his head and whispers: “For my country and my God, I’ll do my best.” The flag drops, and the sprinter from Lake Placid, New York, explodes off the starting line but immediately lags behind Canadian Charles Gorman. Gorman’s first 100 meters are so fast, the spectators audibly gasp. Undaunted, Jewtraw skates hard and pulls ahead midway down the track. Strengthened by a second wind, he doesn’t look back and speeds across the finish line like a bullet. He wins in 44 seconds flat.


Charlie Jewtraw earns the first medal of the 1924 Winter Olympics.

The final medal of the games isn’t awarded until fifty years later when a ski jump historian discovers a clerical error. He recalculates the scores and finds the 4th place finisher actually finished third. The International Olympic Committee verifies the findings and issues a long overdue bronze medal to then 85 year old Anders Haugen of Norway in 1974.

HAUGEN: They presented the award and I received it…

Two years later, radio journalist Bob Brill interviewed Haugen—who said he didn’t want the medal. He thought people would misunderstand, thinking he was dissatisfied with the judges and results. He wasn’t.

HAUGEN: …so I just took the medal and said nothing.

Next, January 25th, 1964, accountant Phil Knight and olympic track and field trainer Bill Bowerman strike a gentlemen’s agreement with a handshake over some shoes. Here’s Knight in an interview with CBS Sunday Morning.

PHIL KNIGHT: It was always a crazy idea to the outside world, but it never really was to me. It was always a big hope.

That “crazy idea” is founding Blue Ribbon Sports—an athletic shoe company based in Beaverton, Oregon. Five years earlier the two men met when Knight was a college track athlete at University of Oregon. Bowerman was his coach. Bowerman was known for taking apart and then reassembling shoes to be lighter.

KNIGHT: Well, he would make them out of goatskin, and so they would just have almost no form in the upper. They were pretty ugly, but they were light.

Knight runs in Bowerman’s shoes. Later, while studying at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Knight turns in a business plan assignment proposing selling inexpensive shoes made in Japan.

Two years later, Knight runs the idea past his former coach. To his surprise, Bowerman offers to become a partner. The athlete turned accountant secures shoe samples from a Japanese company and begins selling them out of his car at track meets.

KNIGHT: People would say, “Oh, hear what Knight’s doing with his standard MBA? He’s peddling Japanese track shoes.” That was a pretty big joke at the time. But I wanted it, so I said I gotta try it. I gotta try it.

Blue Ribbon Sports soon begins making their own shoes in Japan to sell abroad. They change their brand name to Nike in 1971—and introduce the famous swoosh logo, a design they pay $35 for, designed by college student Carolyn Davidson.

CAROLYN DAVIDSON: Maybe the price wasn’t great at the time—they paid what I charged, though.

Nike has seen its fair share of controversy over the years: from polarizing spokesmen, to accusations over sweatshops and child labor. But it has immense international staying power. The company has seen its market share decline in recent years, but it’s come a long way from selling prototypes out of the trunk of a car. Nike is now worth more than 150 billion dollars, and sells over 20 billion shoes annually.

And finally today, the 15th anniversary of a live birth that becomes a media circus:

TV COVERAGE: This was the scene moments ago as photographers swarmed a SUV that carried Nadya Suleman…

Nadya Suleman gives birth to the world's first surviving octuplets on January 26th, 2009.

NEWS CLIP: Nadia Suleman is inside of her LaHabra home at this hour. She showed up here about 30 minutes ago. She was greeted by a crowd of onlookers…

Suleman started in vitro fertilization treatments twelve years earlier at age 21 under the care of Dr. Michael Kamrava resulting in six children over a five year span. In 2008 the divorcee and single mom had six snowflake babies yet unborn. So she asked her physician to place them all in her uterus at once, fearing they would be destroyed otherwise.

Kamrava did more than that. He implanted a total of 12 embryos from his clinic, eight survived to birth. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine expelled doctor Kamrava for his departure from protocol.

DR. PHIL: Well, I’ve got lots of questions for Nadya, and I think she has some questions for me…

Suleman became an instant media sensation, making the rounds on daytime TV as the Octomom:

DR. PHIL: You said that you had this void from this dysfunctional childhood, so you wanted this big family. Are they born with a job of filling your void?

Suleman nearly lost her kids following a string of poor personal decisions, but she eventually came to her senses, got clean, rejected her Octomom persona, and left the public spotlight—though she’s still a perennial favorite of tabloids this time of year.

Five years ago, Suleman welcomed 7NEWS Australia into her home for a day as the kids celebrated their 10th birthdays…

SULEMAN: I think I was young, dumb, irresponsible, selfish, reckless, yes. But the hate? Imagine all the world around you hating you. Imagine how that would feel as a mom. You can’t…

Today Suleman seems at peace and focused on her 14 kids. She’s active on Instagram, but doesn’t share more about their lives than they approve.

That’s this week’s WORLD History Book. I’m Paul Butler with reporting assistance from Emma Perley.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


Please wait while we load the latest comments...