Short track speed skating originated in the speed skating events held with mass starts. This form of speed skating was mainly practiced in the United States and Canada, as opposed to the international form, where skaters skated in pairs. At the 1932 Winter Olympics, speed skating events were conducted in the mass start form. Competitions in North America were also held indoors, for example in Madison Square Garden, New York, and therefore on shorter tracks than usual for outdoor skating.
In 1967, the International Skating Union adopted short track speed skating, although it did not organize international competitions until 1976. World Championships have been held since 1981 (though events held in 1976-1980 under different names later received the status of World Championships). After several changes in the name of the competition (last time in 1989), the event is now held annually as the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships.
At the 1988 Winter Olympics, held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, short track was a demonstration sport. It was upgraded to a full Olympic sport in 1992 and has been part of the Winter Olympics since. The programme was expanded from four events in 1992 to eight in 2002. The events are the same for both men and women: 500 m, 1000 m, 1500 m, 3000m, and the relay (5000 m (men)/3000 m (women)).