Research suggests that the earliest ice skating happened in southern Finland more than 4,000 years ago. Originally, skates were merely sharpened, flattened bone strapped to the bottom of the foot. Skaters did not actually skate on the ice, but rather glided on top of it. True skating emerged when a steel blade with sharpened edges was used. Skates now cut into the ice instead of gliding on top of it. Adding edges to ice skates was invented by the Dutch in the 13th or 14th century. These ice skates were made of steel, with sharpened edges on the bottom to aid movement. Skating became popular as a recreation, a means of transport and spectator sport. Skating as a sport developed on the lakes of Scotland and the canals of the Netherlands.
Organized races on ice skates developed in the 19th century. Norwegian clubs hosted competitions from 1863, with races in Christiania drawing five-digit crowds. Five years later, a club in Amsterdam held an ice racing event they called a World Championship, with participants from Russia, the US and the UK, as well as the host country. World Championships had begun in the 1890s for speed skating and figure skating, and in 1936 for women’s speed skating. At the 1914 Olympic Congress, the delegates agreed to include ice speed skating in the 1916 Olympics, However, WWI put an end to the plans of Olympic competition, and it was not until the first Winter Olympics in 1924 for men, and 1960 for women.