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Tuesday, December 18, 2001
Updated: January 8, 10:11 PM ET
1948 St. Moritz

By Jeff Merron and Eric Neel
Special to ESPN.com


The Site: The games returned to St. Moritz, Switzerland, host of the 1928 Olympics. These were the first Winter Games after a twelve-year hiatus due to World War II. As punishment for their role in the war, Germany and Japan were not invited. Athletes from 28 nations competed. Norway, Sweden and Switzerland led the way, with 10 medals each.

Front-runner: Dick Button won the men's figure skating, becoming the first figure skater to successfully complete a double axel in Olympic competition.

Talk of the Town: Unheralded U.S. skier Gretchen Fraser won the first ever women's slalom event. She remembered later that reporters never cared to talk to her once. "They said, 'Oh, if somebody breaks a leg, let us know and we'll send that (story) home' ... but they didn't care about us."

Upset: Max Houben, a 49-year-old Belgian bobsledder, became the oldest person ever to receive a medal at the Winter Games.

Quotable: Button on trying the double axel in his Olympic program: "The cravenness of backing away from something because of the pressure of the Olympic games repulsed me and once I had made up my mind, I could not divert the steps that culminated in the double axel."

Top of the Pops: Dinah Shore's "Buttons and Bows."

Oscar: "Gentleman's Agreement," directed by Elia Kazan and starring Gregory Peck, took Best Picture. The film tells the story of a reporter who goes "under cover" as a Jew to do an expose on anti-Semitism, only to discover his own prejudices. Four years later, Kazan will cause a stir in Hollywood when he "names names" before the House Un-American Activities committee.

In the works: Bebop. NATO. The People's Republic of China.

Hot Lit: Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" hit the shelves.

The Political Scene: "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN." Gandhi assassinated in New Delhi by Hindu fanatic. End of racial segregation in U.S. military.

Odds and Ends: U.S. bobsleds were sabotaged and the culprits were never found. The team repaired the sleds and went on to win four medals, including a gold.

  • The United States sent two hockey teams to the games, one from the Amateur Hockey Association and one from the Amateur Athletic Association. The IOC threatened to cancel the hockey competition, but Swiss organizers protested and the AHA team was chosen to play, though their games did not count in the standings.

  • Swedish speed skater Ake Seyffarth, a one-time world record holder, finished seventh in the 5,000 meters after brushing up against a photographer who had jumped onto the ice to take a picture.

  • U.S. "speed" skater Richard "Buddy" Solem took 26 minutes, 22.4 seconds to complete the 10,000-meter race. Solem actually got a bad break: he was the last skater to race and by the time he took the ice, the sun had turned the course into slush. Several skaters before him refused to participate; Solem was cheered for his perseverance.

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    A note on sources: David Wallechinsky's "The Complete Book of the Winter Olympics", Bud Greenspan's "Frozen in Time", Bernard Grun's "The Timetables of History", The Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com) and Infoplease.com were major reference sources for this compilation.