The White Stadium, the official film of the Second Winter Olympic Games in St. Moritz, is a combination of staged scenes and actual competition. It begins with what amounts to a 25-minute travelogue promoting the high-end resort of St. Moritz and the surrounding region of Engadin in Switzerland. We are shown many scenes of natural beauty, as well as children engaging in a snowball fight and a mostly-naked couple cross-country skiing on a sunny day.
Unfortunately, the Opening Ceremony did not take place on such a pleasant day. The athletes and officials marching in the Parade of Nations struggle against heavy winds. At least they were able to move around a bit, unlike the spectators, who are seen cringing in the bitter cold.
At the 35-minute mark of the film, we finally see some competition, beginning with heats of the 500-meter speed skating event. Coverage of the 50-kilometer cross-country reveals a course that is more authentically “cross-country” than what we are used to today. The skiers appear exhausted throughout.
The ski jump is well-attended, and the beautiful presentation includes close-up head shots of the smiling participants, as well as slow-motion coverage of many of the jumps.
Much less well-attended is the curling tournament, which, even back in 1928, is viewed with a sense of humor. The sequence concludes with an intertitle stating that with curling, victory is not as important as…and we see a curler drinking wine. Aficionados of curling will note that the exact center of the house is marked with a short, movable pole resembling the hole pole used in golf.
The head-first skeleton, which, until 2002, was included in the Olympic program only when the Games were held in St. Moritz (1928 and 1948) is shown. But we also learn that in 1928 the bobsleigh teams competed head-first while lying on top of each other.
Demonstration events presented include horse racing on a frozen lake, harness racing and skijöring, in which skiers are dragged along behind a galloping horse, while attached by a tow rope. Earlier in the film, we watch an actress try skijöring, the actress being none other than Leni Riefenstahl, who also appeared in narrative films directed by Arnold Fanck, the director of The White Stadium.
Although the figure skating competitions are presented, special coverage is given to Sonja Henie, who is shown not in competition, but performing for the camera, The extended sequence is intercut with numerous shots of adoring boys and stadium spectators who were clearly filmed separately, a staged sequence twelve years before Leni Riefenstahl did the same in the Berlin Summer Games film.
Although the ice hockey tournament consisted of 18 matches, the only one shown is referred to in the intertitle as “The Hockey Match.” This was Canada’s 13-0 victory over the Swiss team, and we are shown all 13 goals.
The film concludes with a show put on by professional figure skaters who jump over barrels, clown around, present a mock-sexy dance and generally are at least as skilled as the Olympic competitors, if not more so.