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The 1988 Winter Olympics, officially known as the XV Olympic Winter Games, were a winter multi-sport event which was celebrated in Calgarymarker, Albertamarker and opened by the 23rd Governor General of Canada: Jeanne Sauvé.

1988 was the last year that the Winter Paralympics and the Winter Olympics were held in separate cities; all subsequent Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games have been hosted by the same city, starting with 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertvillemarker, Francemarker. Similarly to 1988 Summer Olympics, these Winter Olympics were "overpowered" by teams of the Soviet Unionmarker and East Germanymarker, the countries which disappeared before the next Winter Games.

As at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montrealmarker, the Canadian team failed to win a gold medal, matching only former Yugoslavia in the dubious distinction of not having won an Olympic winter gold medal on home soil.

Host selection

Calgary first tried to win a bid for the Winter Olympics in 1964, and again in 1968 but were defeated by Innsbruck, Austria & Grenoble, France respectively.

Calgary finally won the bid for Canada's first Winter Olympics on September 30, 1981. It beat out Falunmarker, Swedenmarker and Cortina d'Ampezzomarker, Italymarker. (Cortina d'Ampezzo had previously hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics.) The vote was conducted by the IOCmarker in Baden-Badenmarker, West Germanymarker, at the 84th IOC Session and 11th Olympic Congress. (Full results of the vote can be seen at the International Olympic Committee Vote History.)
1988 Winter Olympics Bidding Results
City NOC Name Round 1 Round 2
Calgarymarker, Albertamarker 35 48
Falunmarker 25 31
Cortina d'Ampezzomarker 18 -


All levels of government helped to fund the Games. The federal government, in Ottawamarker, provided $225 million (note all figures listed in CDN funds, not adjusted for inflation), the province of Albertamarker paid $125 million and the city of Calgary with $50 million. The American host network, ABC, paid a then record $398 million, while the main host broadcaster, the Canadian CTV television network, paying $45 million for domestic rights. A further $90 million was raised by sponsorships and licenses.

Concern was raised almost from the beginning about the suitability of Calgary hosting the Winter Olympics because of the city's local weather conditions for the month of February. That area of Albertamarker is plagued unpredictably with a weather phenomenon called a chinook wind, which are periods where the weather becomes extremely unseasonably mild (in the plus Celsius range) in short periods of time. A year prior to the event, the Whit Fraser report hinted that there was a possibility that mild winter weather could cause major problems for the Games. During the Games, there were indeed minor problems—for example, some bobsleigh runs had to be re-done because of sand getting blown onto the bobsleigh track.

This Olympic Torch Relay (with the theme Share the Flame) stands as one of the longest in Olympic history, and especially for the Winter Olympic Games. It was a stark contrast to Canada's first Olympic torch relay for the 1976 Summer Olympics, which started in Ottawamarker and went directly east to Montrealmarker; this distance (about 200 km) is the shortest in Summer Olympic Games history so far. For Canada's first Winter Olympics, the Olympic torch (modeled after the Calgary Towermarker) was carried by both famous and ordinary Canadians in a continuous 88-day run across Canada, covering all 10 provinces and 2 territories (Yukonmarker and the Northwest Territoriesmarker; the territory of Nunavutmarker did not exist until 1999), for a total distance of about 18,000 km. The torch traveled via ordinary running, dog sled, and snowmobile. Citizens won the chance to run a 1 km distance with the Olympic torch by entering a lottery sponsored by Petro Canada.

The instrumental theme song ("Winter Games") and its vocal counterpart ("Can't You Feel It?") were both composed and performed by Canadian musician David Foster of Victoriamarker, British Columbiamarker.

The official mascots of the games were two western-attired polar bears named Hidy and Howdy. The names were chosen from a field of 7,000 names through a contest sponsored by the Calgary Zoomarker. They were designed by Sheila Scott of Great Scott Productions, and produced by International Mascot Corporation of Edmontonmarker, Albertamarker.


The Games were opened by The Right Honourable Jeanne Sauvé, 45th Governor General of Canada, on behalf of the Queen of Canada, Elizabeth II at McMahon Stadiummarker.


Canada Olympic Park in 2006.
Organizers and government claimed that the Calgary Olympic Games turned a profit. They declared a surplus of between $90–$150 million, and this money was used to fund the various Olympic venues in Calgary. Ever mindful of the financial disaster of the 1976 Summer Olympics, Calgary organizers attempted to be financially successful, because there was political pressure on them to erase the spectre of a second Canadian Games at a loss. Organizers claimed that their use of these profits for the future Canada Olympic Parkmarker and the funding of Canadian athletes through the Calgary Olympic Development Association (CODA) gave Calgary a lasting legacy and impact on the Canadian sports scene, and also provided funds for the maintenance and upgrading of athletic facilities in Calgary, Banffmarker, and Lake Louisemarker. Well after the Olympics ended, they declared, CODA continued to use its resources to develop resources for Olympic athletes in the city, which included supporting Canada's first high school designed for Olympic calibre athletes, in a partnership with the Calgary Board of Education.

However, a widely cited 1993 audit and independent research conducted by the daily newspaper The Toronto Star in 1999 showed that these financial figures were largely bogus. When announcing these numbers, organizers had removed from their calculations $461 million in subsidies provided by federal, provincial and local governments used mainly for building the games venues. When these government investments were included in the balance sheets, the Calgary Olympics were reported to have produced a sizeable financial loss.

However, the games fuelled an endowment fund of $70.5 million that is now worth $185 million and continues to fund sport in a variety of ways. Additionally, the Calgary Olympic Committee (OCO) gave the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) $40 million, which after investment is now worth $110 million; those funds assist the COC's $8 million annual contribution to national teams, coaches and athletes and permits its existence as a self-sustaining organization that does not rely on government funding.

Five world class facilities were built for the games, and several others were improved.
  • Nakiska at Mt. Allan
  • Olympic Saddledome
  • Olympic Oval
  • Canada Olympic Park
  • Canmore Nordic Centre

Eight national teams use Calgary or Canmore as a home base, and Calgary has hosted 200 national and international competitions between 1987 and 2009 because of its Olympic facilities.

Of 30 world records in speed skating, 17 of them have been set at the Olympic Oval in Calgary, considered the fastest ice in the world.

There was a substantial social impact as well. From the unprecedented volunteer involvement in staging the Games, a program was put in place where ordinary Calgarians could purchase, for $19.88 in the summer of 1986, a brick at the main medal presentation plaza called the Olympic Plaza with their names laser-engraved on it. The involvement of ordinary Calgarians was evident. This was of paramount importance to the organizing committee, OCO'88, as it kept the Games from appearing distant and "out of reach".

In 1999, a bribery scandal hit the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) for the 2002 Winter Olympics. The main focus of that scandal was the tactics used by that organizing committee then to win the bid in Budapestmarker, Hungarymarker, at the 104th IOC Session in 1995. There was talk of stripping the rights of hosting the Games away at the time because of that circumstance. That whole scene played out before the unforeseen 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York Citymarker and Washington, D.C.marker on the United Statesmarker. Calgary then sent an offer to step in to be an alternate host of the 2002 Winter Olympics, if Salt Lake Citymarker was unable to host the Games because of both counts.

Calgary tried again to bid for the Winter Olympic Games in 2010, but lost out when the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) chose Vancouvermarker as the city that would be the Canadian bid internationally. Eventually, Vancouver was chosen to host the 2010 Winter Olympics over PyeongChangmarker, Koreamarker, and Salzburgmarker, Austriamarker in July 2003 at the 115th IOC Session in Praguemarker, Czech Republicmarker.

Unfortunately, the host Canadian team failed to win a gold medal in the 1988 Winter Olympics. The Canadian Olympic Committee has pledged to change this at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouvermarker with a program called Own the Podium - 2010, and the Olympic team's success in Turin 2006 made that seem like a distinct possibility.

Continuing Funding of Venues

The Albertamarker provincial government, under Ed Stelmach on August 30, 2007, committed CDN$69-million, of the Calgary Olympic Development Association (CODA) CDN$276-million overall project cost, to construct Canada's first Centre of Sport Excellence. This announcement included the unveiling of a new facility design for Canada Olympic Parkmarker (COP) called the Athletic and Ice Complex. Previous governments have already given funds recently to upgrade and/or maintain existing Olympic winter venues in Calgary and Canmore, Albertamarker in the past. For example, CDN$25.6-million was provided to renovate the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Parkmarker area, in time for the 2005 Albertamarker Centennial FIS World Cup event. CDN$600,000 was spent in maintaining the ski jumping venue at Canada Olympic Parkmarker [27662]. On October 5, 2007, the Canadian federal government promised an additional CDN$40-million toward the project, according to an article written by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). [27663]


See the medal winners, ordered by sport:

Demonstration sports

Exhibition sports


When awarded the games, Calgary had very little in the way of sports infrastructure to host such an event. The following is a list of venues built for the games (see venues below for complete list of all facilities used for the games):

Medal count

1 11 9 9 29
2 9 10 6 25
3 5 5 5 15
4 4 1 2 7
5 4 0 2 6
6 3 5 2 10
7 3 2 2 7
8 2 4 2 8
9 2 1 3 6
10 2 1 2 5


A record of 57 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) entered athletes at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.

It was the first Winter Olympic Games for Fijimarker, Guammarker, Guatemalamarker, Jamaicamarker, and Netherlands Antillesmarker.

See also

Notes and references

External links

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