The idea of cheering on athletes with cowbells has been a long tradition in Switzerland, Austria and Germany. In recent decades, the centuries old tradition has been adopted by many other countries and sports enthusiasts from around the world.
HOW CHEERING WITH COWBELLS STARTED:
Back when ski racing started in the alps, farmers were often the racers zooming down the slopes. Since their cows were in the barn for the winter, the cow bells were hung in the barn rafters. (Cows are belled for summer grazing in the mountains so they can be found... no fences) Racer's family members took bells to ring so the racers could hear them cheer. Hey, mittens don't clap...
OLYMPIC CHEERING BELLS:
The first Official Winter Olympic logoed cheering bells were in 1994 for the Lillehammer, Norway Games. They were made by MOEN Bjoellefabrikk (MOEN Bell Factory, we call it MOEN Bells of Norway). The small factory had made bells out of recycled bullet casings for sheep, goats, and cows since 1922. Adding engraved logos added a whole new market and expanded the factory.
There have been other bells with Olympic logos, but those weren't used as cheering bells.
BELLS AT THE OLYMPICS:
Here's an overview of bells at the Olympics. If you have any information or photos you would like to add, please send them over!
2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games:
There were three styles of cheering bells at Vancouver: the MOEN Bells of Norway had Vancouver 2010 engraved on the front of the 2-3/4" ($32), 3-1/2" ($36) and 4" ($40) with two different styles of webbing straps. There were also some MEGA Bells made (11-1/2" $250). The other styles of bells were a white stick handle bell with a blue imprint of the official logo ($22) and a small 3" bell with a full color logo imprinted and a white long strap ($10). (RC Products of Vancouver was the bell licensee.)
2006 Torino Olympic Winter Games:
Three TONS of these MOEN Bells of Norway were ringing and cheering on the Olympians in the mountains of Italy! In Italy, they were available in 2-3/4", 3-1/2" and 4-1/2" sizes.
In the United States, the 2-3/4" Torino bell has the 27 international flag ribbon symbolizing global unity, the 3-1/2" bell has a soft royal blue ribbon woven in Norway, and our 70 flag international ribbon is on the 4", 5-1/8" and 6-1/4" bells. The MEGA Bell has a wide leather belt.
The three largest sizes are numbered on the back, an added interest for collectors. A very limited number of the serial numbered bells are being made in each size (less than 100). So you were guaranteed a low number! (Concept Sports was the licensee in Italy. Cowbell.com was the licensee for the United States.)
2002 Salt Lake Olympic Winter Games
The Salt Lake Games had a large variety of Limited Edition numbered bells in addition to the standard crystal logo. The bells were launched with the 3" high Nagano/Salt Lake Friendship Bell. Followed by the Mascot Welcome Bell, Ring in the New Year series for 2000, 2001, and 2002.
The Salt Lake Crystal logo was available on MOEN Bells sized from 2-3/4", 3-1/2", 4", 4-1/2", 5-1/8", 6-1/4", and 11-1/2" (measured from the bottom of the bell to the top of the handle). The bells were decorated with various webbing patterns and international flag ribbons symbolizing global unity.
Double bell bear bells and sterling silver bell necklaces were also popular in Salt Lake during the Games. (Cowbell.com was the licensee.)
1998 Nagano Olympic Winter Games
At Nagano, horns where the hot noise maker (MOEN Bells were available at the Norway House, but not with the Nagano Olympic logo). MOEN did make Official logoed bells for the Nagano Paralympics.
1988 Seoul Olympic Summer Games & 1996 Atlanta Olympic Summer Games
There were ceramic and metal dinner bells but they were not used as cheering bells.
1994 Lillehammer Olympic Winter Games
This is when the MOEN Bells became world famous as a cheering bell. (MOEN Bjoellefabrikk was the licensee.)
1936 Berlin Olympic Summer Games
These German Games had a variety of bell souvenirs from charms, banks to BIG bells, but they weren't used as a cheering bell.