Traditionally, ice skating was contested in groups, rather than the modern speed skating format, where two skaters race the clock in separate lanes. While that became the official speed skating format, the “pack style” format remained in use. In North America, it remained the most popular skating format, and at the 1932 Winter Olympics, the long track skating competitions were held under North American rules. With the advent of artificial rinks, racing was increasingly conducted on small hockey and figure skating rinks, giving rise to the modern sport of short track speed skating. The International Skating Union (ISU) recognized it as an official sport in the 1960s. The first World Championships were held in 1976, and became official ISU World Championships in 1981. Initially popular mostly in the US and Canada, the sport spread via Japan to China and Korea, and later to Europe.
At the IOC Session during the 1984 Sarajevo Games, the IOC admitted short track speed skating as a demonstration sport for the next Winter Olympics in Calgary. Only single distances and relays were planned for the sport’s Olympic debut, although like its long track cousin, the World Championships are decided in an allround competition over 4 distances. In addition to four individual distances for men and women, two relay event were also held. The competitions proved popular, and in 1989 the IOC Executive Board approved short track speed skating as a new Olympic sport for the 1992 Games in Albertville.
Short track’s initial programme featured four events, two individual and two team competitions. For the men, the 1000 m was picked as the individual event, while the women contested a 500 m. The relay competitions were held over 5000 m (men) and 3000 m (women).