1988 Winter Olympics

Last updated

XV Olympic Winter Games
1988 Winter Olympics logo.svg
Emblem of the 1988 Winter Olympics [lower-alpha 1] [1]
Host city Calgary, Alberta, Canada
MottoComing Together in Calgary
(French: Se réunir à Calgary)
Athletes1,423 (1,122 men, 301 women)
Events46 in 6 sports (10 disciplines)
OpeningFebruary 13
ClosingFebruary 28
Opened by
Stadium McMahon Stadium

The 1988 Winter Olympics, officially known as the XV Olympic Winter Games (French : Les XVes Jeux olympiques d'hiver) and commonly known as Calgary '88, was a multi-sport event held from February 13 to 28, 1988, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It was the first Winter Olympic Games to be held for 16 days, like the counterpart Summer Olympic Games. [2] The majority of the contested events took place in Calgary itself. However, the skiing events were held west of the city at the Nakiska ski resort in Kananaskis Country [3] [4] and at the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park in the town of Canmore. [5]


In 1988, a record of 57 National Olympic Committees that sent the total of 1,423 athletes to these Games. [2] Just like the 1976 Summer Olympics, Canada failed again to win a gold medal in an official medal event on home soil. The Finnish ski jumper, Matti Nykänen, [6] [7] and the Dutch speed skater, Yvonne van Gennip, [8] [9] won three individual gold medals each. The 1988 Winter Olympics were also remembered for the "heroic failure" of both the British ski jumper, Michael Edwards, and the debut of the Jamaica national bobsleigh team. The both of them became subjects of major feature films about their participation in these Games: Cool Runnings by Disney in 1993 [10] and Eddie the Eagle by 20th Century Studios in 2016. [11]

At approximately C$829 million, the Calgary Games were one of the most expensive Olympics ever held at the time. The facilities that were built for these Winter Olympics helped the Calgary region turn into the heart of Canada's elite winter sports program, under the tutelage of WinSport. [12] The five purpose-built venues for those Games continued to be used mostly for training and hosting various winter sporting events every year. These experiences helped Canada develop into one of the top nations in Winter Olympics competition. The climax of this effort was the overall first place finish at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. [13]

Host city selection

1988 Winter Olympics bidding results [14]
CityCountryRound 1Round 2
Calgary Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 3548
Falun Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden 2531
Cortina d'Ampezzo Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 18

The bid for the 1988 Winter Olympics was Canada's seventh attempt at hosting a winter games and Calgary's fourth. Previous bids representing Montreal (1956) and Vancouver (1976 and 1980) bookended failed attempts by the Calgary Olympic Development Association (CODA) to host the 1964, 1968 and 1972 games. [15] The CODA became dormant in 1966 after losing its bid for the 1972 Olympics, but was revived in 1979 under the leadership of Frank King to bid for the 1988 games. [16] Calgary earned the right to bid on behalf of Canada by the Canadian Olympic Association (COA), defeating a rival challenge from a group representing Vancouver. The defeated organizing group lamented that they lost to Calgary's "big-ticket games"; the Calgary bid proposed to spend nearly three times what the Vancouver group expected to pay to host the Olympics. [17]

The CODA then spent two years building local support for the project, selling memberships to 80,000 of the city's 600,000 residents. [14] It secured C$270 million in funding from the federal and provincial governments while civic leaders, including Mayor Ralph Klein, crisscrossed the world attempting to woo International Olympic Committee (IOC) delegates. [16] Driven by the arrival of the National Hockey League's Calgary Flames, the city had already begun constructing an Olympic coliseum (later named the Olympic Saddledome) prior to the IOC vote, an action that demonstrated Calgary's determination to host the games and positively influenced delegates. [18] The city was one of three finalists, opposed by the Swedish community of Falun and Cortina d'Ampezzo, the Italian town that hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics. [16] Cortina d'Ampezzo, along with Milan, would get to host the 2026 Winter Olympics, which Calgary also considered bidding for. [19]

The Calgary Olympic bid emphasized the cultural and geographic elements of the Calgary community as an asset for hosting the Olympics. Calgary was marketed as a capitalist, oil-driven economy, modern economy which contrasted a tourism and recreation image focused on mountain playgrounds, wilderness and western rodeo culture. [20] The two seemingly contradictory images were brought together as part of an extensive and diverse lobbying program. [20]

The vote was held September 30, 1981, at Baden-Baden, West Germany, during the 84th IOC Session and 11th Olympic Congress. After Cortina d'Ampezzo was eliminated in the first round of balloting, Calgary won the right to host the games over Falun by a 48–31 vote. [14] The announcement of the CODA's victory sent delegates in Baden-Baden and residents of Calgary into dance and singing celebration. [21] After the announcement was made Premier Peter Lougheed openly burst into tears in front of cameras, and later Calgary Mayor Ralph Klein sang a rendition of It's Hard to Be Humble . [22] It was the first Winter Olympics awarded to Canada, and the second games overall, following the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. [23]

Olympic historians John E. Finding and Kimberly D. Pelle note that once the Olympics were awarded to Calgary, the cultural and community aspects which strongly represented the games bid were pushed aside by the Organizing Committee, which proceeded to take a "vigorous, resilient and impersonal corporate business strategy" towards the planning and operation of the games. [20]


The IIHF called the Olympic Saddledome "the finest international rink in the world". It is also the largest hockey arena ever used at the Olympics with a capacity of 20,016 in 1988. PengrowthSaddledome.jpg
The IIHF called the Olympic Saddledome "the finest international rink in the world". It is also the largest hockey arena ever used at the Olympics with a capacity of 20,016 in 1988.

It was Bill Pratt, the former contractor who took over as Calgary Organizing Committee president in 1983, and who supervised the enormous construction project. Says Donald Jacques, general manager of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede: "Because of him, everything was built on time and on budget." But Pratt rubbed many colleagues the wrong way. As a former co-worker predicted in 1983: "He will get everything built. There may not be many left around to enjoy it, but he'll get it done." His relations with the media were also difficult at times. He had barely settled into his job when the Calgary press began criticizing the committee for excessive secrecy and for awarding Olympic contracts to the Calgary public relations firm of Francis Williams and Johnson, where Pratt had been a director, OCO insisted there was no conflict of interest. Declares Pratt: "I have been nailed for a lot, but that does not bother me. The record stands". [22]

The Organizing Committee changed the site of every venue presented in the 1981 bid at Baden-Baden except the Olympic Oval. [25]

McMahon Stadium, Calgary's primary outdoor facility, was the site of both the opening and closing ceremonies, the first time in 28 years that the same venue hosted both events. [26] Three other existing venues served as secondary facilities: The Max Bell Centre hosted the demonstration events of curling and short track speed skating. The Father David Bauer Olympic Arena hosted some ice hockey matches, as did the Stampede Corral, which also played host to some figure skating events. [26] Though the Corral did not support the size of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF)'s standard ice surface, the Calgary Organizing Committee (Olympiques Calgary Olympics '88 or OCO'88) was able to convince the IIHF to sanction the arena in exchange for a $1.2 million payment. [27]

The Games' five primary venues were all purpose-built however, at significant cost. [28] The Olympic Saddledome was the primary venue for ice hockey and figure skating. Located at Stampede Park, the facility was expected to cost $83 million but cost overruns pushed the facility to nearly $100 million. [26] The Olympic Oval was built on the campus of the University of Calgary for $40 million. [29] It was the first fully enclosed 400-metre speed skating venue in the world as it was necessary to protect against the possibility of either bitter cold temperatures or ice-melting chinook winds. [27] Seven world and three Olympic records were broken during the Games, resulting in the facility earning praise as "the fastest ice on Earth". [26] Canada Olympic Park was built on the western outskirts of Calgary and hosted bobsled, luge, ski jumping and freestyle skiing. It was the most expensive facility built for the games, costing $200 million. [26]

Two facilities were built west of Calgary, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The Canmore Nordic Centre was 90-percent funded by the Province of Alberta at a cost of $17.3 million. [29] Located near the community of Canmore it was built with the intention that it would become a year-round recreation destination for Albertans, and help facilitate the community's transition from a small mining community to a recreation destination. [29] The facility hosted cross-country skiing, biathlon and Nordic combined events. [30] Nakiska (Cree for "to meet") was the most controversial facility built. [27] The province paid the $25 million construction cost for the alpine skiing facility on Mount Allen, about an hour west of Calgary. The Mount Allen site drew criticism due to environmental concerns, the ability to build adequate ski slopes, and research indicated the site did not have sufficient snowfall for a ski resort. [25] [31] It was initially criticized for the location's relative lack of snow, requiring artificial snow making machines to be installed, and for an initial lack of technical difficulty. [27] International Ski Federation officials proposed modifications to the courses that ultimately met with praise from competitors. [32]


Organizing Committee

The Calgary Olympic Development Association Board of Directors originally had 25 members and was chaired by Frank King, with members including Mayor Ralph Klein, former Mayor Ross Alger, and other prominent Calgarians, The Executive Committee president was Robert Niven. [33] Olympic Organizing Committee was formed afterwards utilizing many of the same members for the board of directors, [34] starting at 11 members, and growing to 25 in October 1983, [35] and growing to 29 by 1985, with former Premier Peter Lougheed added as the 29th member . [20] [36] Olympic biographer Wamsley notes Frank King the OCO CEO, Bill Pratt who took over as President, Ralph Klein the Mayor, and Roger Jackson the president of the Canadian Olympic Association, had the most influence on all aspects of the Games. [20] The Organizing Committee took a domineering approach to planning the games which caused highly publicized churn of staff, volunteers and executives. Staff who were at odds with management were fired or resigned, and claims were made that volunteers were verbally abused. [20] David Leighton resigned as President in 1982 after five months on the job, and Pratt the former General Manager of the Calgary Stampede took over as President shortly afterwards. [20] [37] The City of Calgary officially delegate responsibilities under the Olympic Charter to the OCO in February 1983, and the Canadian Olympic Association delegated responsibilities to OCO later in September 1983, giving the OCO full authority to plan and stage the Olympics. [37]

Conflicts within the Organizing Committee grew public and a review of management was conducted after Mayor Klein threatened the organization with a public inquiry in 1986. [25] Frank King took over as CEO and more full time staff were formed and 75 volunteer committees were created to organize 9,000 volunteers. [25] Despite the changes there was still animosity within the organization, Walmsley notes that Pratt and King continued to have a tense relationship. [22] Members of the media commented that the changes further alienated the public, with CTV producer Ralph Mellanby describing the OCO as "oco is an oilman’s, cattleman’s Calgary thing". [22] The IOC grew increasingly frustrated with the OCO which saw the organization's actions as a refusal to collaborate with the IOC on plans, with Dick Pound going on record with the media criticizing the organization's view on collaboration with the IOC. [22]


The official poster of the 1988 Winter Olympics Calgary 1988 poster.png
The official poster of the 1988 Winter Olympics

The Calgary Winter Olympics were the first winter games to earn a significant television revenue base; 1980 Lake Placid Games generated US$ 20.7 million, while OCO'88 generated $324.9 million in broadcast rights. [38] The overwhelming majority of television revenues came from the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), which agreed in 1984 to pay US$ 309 million for American television rights, over three times the $91.5 million it paid for the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. [25] [39] The deal, at the time the highest amount ever paid for a sporting event, allowed organizers to announce the Games would be debt-free. [40] The CTV Television Network paid C$4.5 million for Canadian rights and to act as the host broadcaster. [41] The games were also televised on CBC. While western European nations paid US$ 5.7 million combined. [42] [43]

OCO'88 made several alterations to the Olympic program as part of efforts to ensure value for its broadcast partners. Premier events, including ice hockey and figure skating, were scheduled for prime time and the Games were lengthened to 16 days from the previous 12 to ensure three weekends of coverage. [44] However, a significant downturn in advertising revenue for sporting events resulted in ABC forecasting significant financial losses on the Games. Calgary organizers appreciated their fortunate timing in signing the deal. King described the timing of the contract with ABC as "the passing of the sun and the moon at the right time for Calgary". [42] [43] ABC lost an estimated $60 million, and broadcast rights to the 1992 Winter Olympics were later sold to the CBS network for $243 million, a 20% reduction compared to Calgary. [45]

Ticketing controversies

A series of ticket-related scandals plagued the organizing committee as the Games approached, resulting in widespread public anger. [46] Demand for tickets was high, particularly for the premier events which had sold out a year in advance. Residents had been promised that only 10 per cent of tickets would go to "Olympic insiders", IOC officials and sponsors, but OCO'88 was later forced to admit that up to 50 percent of seats to top events had gone to insiders. [27] The organizing committee, which was subsequently chastised by mayor Klein for running a "closed shop", admitted that it had failed to properly communicate the obligations it had to supply IOC officials and sponsors with priority tickets. [47]

These events were preceded by OCO'88's ticketing manager being charged with theft and fraud after he sent modified ticket request forms to Americans that asked them to pay in United States funds rather than Canadian and to return them to his company's post office box rather than that of the organizing committee. The American dollar was trading 40 cents higher than the Canadian dollar, which led to significant profits through currency conversion. [48] [22] [49] The ticket manager maintained his innocence claiming he was used as a scapegoat and credit card company Visa was responsible for the error, despite his claims, he was convicted of fraud, theft, and forgery, and sentenced to 5 years in prison. [50]

Organizers attempted to respond to public concern by asking sponsors to consider reducing their orders and by paying $1.5 million to add 2,600 seats to the Saddledome, as well as increase capacity for ski jumping, alpine skiing and the opening and closing ceremonies. [49] King also noted that the Calgary Games offered a then-record 1.9 million tickets for sale, [49] three times the amount available at Sarajevo or Lake Placid, and that 79 percent of them were going to Calgarians. [49] [47] By their start, a Winter Games' record of over 1.4 million tickets had been sold, [51] a figure that eclipsed the previous three Winter Games combined. [52] In the OCO's final report, the Committee admits the culmination of fraud charges, large portion of premier tickets requested by Olympic insiders, and poor communications led to a negative public reaction to the ticketing process. [49]


Hidy and Howdy were the mascots of the Calgary Games. Olympics-hidy-howdy.jpg
Hidy and Howdy were the mascots of the Calgary Games.

The city, which already had a strong volunteering tradition with the annual Calgary Stampede, also relied heavily on volunteers to run the Olympics. Over 22,000 people signed up to fill 9,400 positions, no matter how inglorious: doctors, lawyers and executives offered to clean manure dropped by horses at the opening ceremonies. [53] Many residents participated in a "Homestay" program, opening their homes to visitors from around the world and renting rooms to those who could not stay in a hotel. [27]

Klein was among those who felt it necessary that the event be community driven, a decision which allowed the city's welcoming spirit to manifest. [54] The Games' mascots, Hidy and Howdy, were designed to evoke images of "western hospitality". [55] The smiling, cowboy-themed polar bears were popular across Canada. Played by a team of 150 students from Bishop Carroll High School, the sister-brother pair made up to 300 appearances per month in the lead up to the Games. [56] [57] From their introduction at the closing ceremonies of the Sarajevo Games in 1984 until their retirement at the conclusion of the Calgary Games, the pair made about 50,000 appearances. [56] The iconic mascots graced signs welcoming travelers to Calgary for nearly two decades until they were replaced in 2007. [58] The mascots names "Hidy" and "Howdy" were chosen by a public contest. [35]


Held at a price of C$829 million, the Calgary Olympics cost more to stage than any previous Games, summer or winter. [51] The high cost was anticipated, as organizers were aware at the outset of their bid that most facilities would have to be constructed. [17] The venues, constructed primarily with public money, were designed to have lasting use beyond the Games and were planned to become the home of several of Canada's national winter sports teams. [59]

The Games were a major economic boon for the city which had fallen into its worst recession in 40 years following the collapse of both oil and grain prices in the mid-1980s. [52] [60] A report prepared for the city in January 1985 estimated the games would create 11,100 man-years of employment and generate C$450-million in salaries and wages. [61] In its post-Games report, OCO'88 estimated the Olympics created C$1.4 billion in economic benefits across Canada during the 1980s, 70 percent within Alberta, as a result of capital spending, increased tourism and new sporting opportunities created by the facilities. [62]

Torch relay

The 1988 Olympic torch relay began on November 15, 1987, when the torch was lit at Olympia and Greek runner Stelios Bisbas began what was called "the longest torch run in history". [63] The flame arrived in St. John's, Newfoundland on the Atlantic Ocean two days later and over 88 days, traveled west across all 10 Canadian provinces and two territories. [64] [65] [29] It passed through most major cities, north to the Arctic Ocean at Inuvik, Northwest Territories, then west to the Pacific Ocean at Victoria, British Columbia before returning east to Alberta, and finally Calgary. [66] The torch covered a distance of 18,000 kilometres (11,000 mi), the greatest distance for a torch relay in Olympic history until the 2000 Sydney Games, and a sharp contrast to the 1976 Montreal Games when the relay covered only 775 kilometres (482 mi). [67]

The identity of the final torchbearer who would light the Olympic cauldron was one of Organizing Committee's most closely guarded secrets. [68] The relay began at St. John's with Barbara Ann Scott and Ferd Hayward representing Canada's past Olympians, and ended with Ken Read and Cathy Priestner carrying the torch into McMahon Stadium representing the nation's current Olympians. They then stopped to acknowledge the contribution of para-athlete Rick Hansen and his "Man in Motion" tour [69] before handing the torch to 12-year-old Robyn Perry, an aspiring figure skater who was selected to represent future Olympians, to light the cauldron. [68]

Olympic Torch

1988 Winter Olympic Torch 1988 Winter Olympics torch.jpg
1988 Winter Olympic Torch

The design of the Olympic Torch for the Calgary games was influenced by the landmark building of the Calgary skyline, the Calgary Tower. [70] The National Research Council Canada developed the design for the Torch, [70] which was constructed of maple, aluminum, and hardened steel, entirely Canadian materials, the torch was designed to remain lit despite the sometimes adverse conditions of Canadian winters. [71] The Torch had to be light enough for relay runners to carry comfortably, and the final design came in at 60 centimeters in length and 1.7 kilograms in weight. [70] [29] [72] The maple handle portion included laser-incised pictograms of the 10 official Olympic Winter sports, and lettering was engraved on the steel caldron portion. [70] The torch used two types of fuel to allow a continuous burn during the unpredictable Canadian winter, the fuel used a combination of gasoline, kerosene and alcohol. [70] Approximately 100 torches were manufactured for the Games. [70]

Event highlights

There were 46 events contested in 6 sports (10 disciplines). In addition, there were 4 demonstration disciplines that have no official status in the overall medal tally.

The 1988 Winter Games began on February 13 with a $10 million opening ceremony in front of 60,000 spectators at McMahon Stadium that featured 5,500 performers, [73] an aerial flyover by the Royal Canadian Air Force's Snowbirds, [74] the parade of nations and the release of 1,000 homing pigeons. [73] Canadian composer David Foster performed the instrumental theme song ("Winter Games") and its vocal counterpart ("Can't You Feel It?"), [75] while internationally recognized Canadian folk/country musicians Gordon Lightfoot singing Four Strong Winds and Ian Tyson performing Alberta Bound [ disambiguation needed ] were among the featured performers. [75] [76] Governor General Jeanne Sauvé opened the Games on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II as an estimated 1.5 billion people watched the ceremony. [77] [78]

Katarina Witt won gold in women's figure skating Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1988-0227-128, Calgary, Olympiade, Kati Witt.jpg
Katarina Witt won gold in women's figure skating

The weather was a dominant story throughout much of the Games, as strong chinook winds that brought daily temperatures as high as 17 °C (63 °F) wreaked havoc on the schedules for outdoor events. Events were delayed when winds were deemed unsafe for competitors and organizers used artificial snow making equipment to ensure skiing venues were properly prepared. [79] It was the first time in Olympic history that alpine events were held on artificial snow. [80] The Games were also marred by the death of the Austrian ski team's doctor, Joerg Oberhammer, on February 25 after a collision with another skier sent him crashing into a snow grooming machine at Nakiska, crushing and killing him instantly. The incident was ruled an accident. [81]

The top individual competitors at the Olympics were Finnish ski jumper Matti Nykänen and Dutch speed skater Yvonne van Gennip as they each won three gold medals. [6] [8] [80] Italy's Alberto Tomba won gold in two skiing events, his first of five career Olympic medals en route to becoming the first alpine skier to win medals at three Winter Games. [82] East Germany's Katarina Witt defended her 1984 gold medal in women's figure skating, capturing a second gold in Calgary. [82] Her compatriot Christa Rothenburger won the gold medal in the 1000 metre race in speed skating, then went on to win a silver medal in the team sprint cycling event at the 1988 Summer Games to become the only person in Olympic history to win medals at both Olympic Games in the same year. [80] The Soviet Union won gold in hockey as Scandinavian neighbours Finland and Sweden took silver and bronze, respectively. [83]

As it had in 1976, Canada again failed to win an official gold medal as the host of an Olympic Games. [84] Canadians won two gold medals in demonstration events, including by Sylvie Daigle as one of her five medals in short-track speed skating. [85] Canada's top official performances came in figure skating where Brian Orser and Elizabeth Manley each won silver medals. Promoted by the media as the "Battle of the Brians"—the competition between Orser and American rival Brian Boitano—and the "Battle of the Carmens"—between Witt and American rival Debi Thomas, who had both elected to skate to Bizet's Carmen in their long programs—were the marquee events of the Games. Boitano won the gold medal over Orser by only one-tenth of a point. [86] Witt won the gold while Thomas won the bronze medal. [87] Manley was not viewed as a medal contender, but skated the greatest performance of her career to come within a fraction of Witt's gold medal winning score. [82]

American speed skater Dan Jansen's personal tragedy was one of the more poignant events of the Games as he skated the 500 metre race mere hours after his sister Jane died of leukemia. [88] A gold medal favourite, Jansen chose to compete as he felt it is what his sister would have wanted. Viewers around the world witnessed his heartbreak as he fell and crashed into the outer wall in the first quarter of his heat. [89] In the 1000 metre race four days later, Jansen was on a world record pace when he again fell. After failing again in Albertville, Jansen finally won a gold medal at the 1994 Lillehamer Games. [90]

The Netherlands' Yvonne van Gennip (left) won three gold medals in Calgary Yvonne van Gennip and Leo Visser 1988.jpg
The Netherlands' Yvonne van Gennip (left) won three gold medals in Calgary

One of the most popular athletes from the games was British ski jumper Michael Edwards, who gained infamy by placing last in both the 70 and 90 metre events finishing 70 and 53 points behind his next closest competitor, respectively. [82] [91] Edwards' "heroic failure" made him an instant celebrity; he went from earning £6,000 per year as a plasterer before the Games to making £10,000 per hour per appearance afterward. [92] Left embarrassed by the spectacle he created, the IOC altered the rules following Calgary to eliminate each nation's right to send at least one athlete and set minimum competition standards for future events. [93] Regardless, the President of the Organizing Committee, Frank King, playfully saluted Edwards' unorthodox sporting legacy, which would also be commemorated with a 2016 feature film, Eddie the Eagle . [94]

The Jamaican bobsleigh team, making their nation's Winter Olympic debut, was also popular in Calgary. [82] The team was the brainchild of a pair of Americans who recruited individuals with strong sprinting ability from the Jamaican military to form the team. [95] Dudley Stokes and Michael White finished the two-man event in 30th place out of 41 competitors and launched the Jamaican team into worldwide fame. [82] The pair, along with Devon Harris and Chris Stokes, crashed in the four-man event, but were met with cheers from the crowd as they pushed their sled across the finish line. [95] Their odyssey was made into the 1993 movie Cool Runnings , a largely fictionalized comedy by Walt Disney Pictures. [96]

Participating National Olympic Committees

A record 57 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) entered athletes at the 1988 Calgary Olympics, 8 more than appeared at any previous Olympic Winter Games. [97] 1,423 athletes participated in 46 events: 1,122 men and 301 women. [98] Fiji, Guam, Guatemala, Jamaica, the Netherlands Antilles and the Virgin Islands had their Winter Olympics debut.

Participating NOCs 1988 Winter Games countries.png
Participating NOCs
Participating National Olympic Committees [lower-alpha 2]


All dates are in Mountain Time Zone (UTC-7)
OCOpening ceremonyEvent competitions1Event finalsCCClosing ceremony
Olympic Rings Icon.svg CeremoniesOCCCN/A
Alpine skiing pictogram.svg Alpine skiing 111111111110
Biathlon pictogram.svg Biathlon 1113
Bobsleigh pictogram.svg Bobsleigh 112
Cross country skiing pictogram.svg Cross country skiing 111111118
Figure skating pictogram.svg Figure skating 11114
Ice hockey pictogram.svg Ice hockey 11
Luge pictogram.svg Luge 1113
Nordic combined pictogram.svg Nordic combined 112
Ski jumping pictogram.svg Ski jumping 1113
Speed skating pictogram.svg Speed skating 111111111110
Daily medal events42242254332234446
Cumulative total468121416212528313335384246
Total events

Weather conditions

Weather conditions are the only major problem facing the organizing committee during the Games.[ citation needed ] The chinook, hot, dry westerly wind from the Rocky Mountains, causes the postponement of 30 events. [100] During the Games, temperatures range from -28 to +22 degrees Celsius. [101]

After a frosty opening ceremony, [102] the men's downhill skiing was postponed for one day due to winds blowing up to 160 km/h. [103] The start of the women's downhill was also delayed. With the ski jumping hills facing north, the westerly winds greatly disrupted the competitions, [29] with the large hill event postponed four times because of dangerous winds. [104] Wind also disrupted the individual Nordic combined, in which the ski jumping event has to be postponed. For the first time in Olympic history, ski jumping and Nordic combined cross-country skiing was contested in a single day. [105] Despite artificial cooling, [29] the bobsleigh and toboggan run was not spared with several races postponed due to high temperatures as well as sand and dust deposited on the track by the wind. [106]

Medal table

A set of medals from the Games on display at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary. 1988 Olympic Winter Games medals.JPG
A set of medals from the Games on display at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary.

  *   Host nation (Canada)

1Flag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union  (URS)119929
2Flag of East Germany.svg  East Germany  (GDR)910625
3Flag of Switzerland.svg  Switzerland  (SUI)55515
4Flag of Finland.svg  Finland  (FIN)4127
5Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden  (SWE)4026
6Flag of Austria.svg  Austria  (AUT)35210
7Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands  (NED)3227
8Flag of Germany.svg  West Germany  (FRG)2428
9Flag of the United States.svg  United States  (USA)2136
10Flag of Italy.svg  Italy  (ITA)2125
Totals (10 nations)453835118

Podium sweeps

February 18 Luge Women's singles Flag of East Germany.svg  East Germany Steffi Walter-Martin Ute Oberhoffner-Weiß Cerstin Schmidt
February 25 Cross-country skiing Women's 20 kilometre freestyle Flag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union Tamara Tikhonova Anfisa Reztsova Raisa Smetanina


Canada Olympic Park in 2006 Canada Olympic Park mid-July 2006 from north side of TransCanada Highway.jpg
Canada Olympic Park in 2006

Prior to Calgary, the Winter Olympics were viewed as a second-rate event compared to their summer counterpart, so much so that the IOC had at one point considered eliminating them entirely. [44] Few cities bid on the Winter Games due to challenges faced in generating revenue. [107] In its bid for the Games, CODA convinced the IOC that it could not only generate enough revenue to turn a profit, but enough of one to ensure a lasting legacy of winter sport development. [44] Organizers followed the lead of their counterparts in Los Angeles for the 1984 Summer Olympics, attracting a large television contract in the United States and was the first host city to benefit from a change in the IOC's strategy on corporate sponsorship. [107] The Calgary Games attracted support from over two dozen major Canadian and multinational corporations, generating millions of dollars in revenues. [41]

Many program changes were made in Calgary to grow the appeal of the Winter Games for sponsors: the extension to 16 days from 12 added an extra weekend of coverage, while the additional programming time was filled by television friendly demonstration events popular in Canada. The exposure that curling, freestyle skiing, and short-track speed skating gained in Calgary influenced the growth in their popularity and led to all three becoming full medal sports by the 1998 Winter Olympics. [107]

Impact on Calgary

Hosting the Winter Olympics helped fuel a significant increase in Calgary's reputation on the world stage. [54] Crosbie Cotton, a reporter for the Calgary Herald who covered the city's Olympic odyssey from its 1979 initiative to the closing ceremonies, noted an increased positive outlook of the city's population over time. He believed that the populace began to outgrow its "giant inferiority complex" that is "typically Canadian", by replacing it with a new level of confidence as the Games approached. [108] This outcome helped the city grow from a regional oil and gas centre best known for the Calgary Stampede to a destination for international political, economic, and sporting events. [54] A study prepared for the organizing committee of the 2010 Winter Olympics, (VANOC), claimed that Calgary hosted over 200 national and international sporting competitions between 1987 and 2007, due to the facilities it had constructed for these Olympic Games. [109]

The Games' enduring popularity within Calgary has been attributed to efforts in making them "everybody's Games." Aside from the sense of community fostered by the high level of volunteer support, OCO'88 included the general public in other ways. For example, the citizens were given an opportunity to purchase a brick with their names engraved on it. Those bricks were used to build the Olympic Plaza, where the medal ceremonies were held in 1988. It remains a popular public park and event site in the city's downtown core today. [110]

After the success of these Olympic Games, Calgary was wanting to bring back the Olympic experience again. It offered, to the IOC, in becoming a possible alternate host city of the 2002 Winter Olympics, after a bidding scandal resulted in a speculation that Salt Lake City would not be able to remain the host city. [111] Next, the city was attempting to be Canada's bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics, but the COC decided to give it to Vancouver. [112] Later, a 2013 Calgary Sun online poll found that 81% of respondents said they would support the idea of hosting another Winter Olympics. [113] On November 13, 2018, Calgary held a public non-biding plebiscite on whether it should bid to host the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. On November 19, 2018, the results of the plebiscite showed that 56.4% (171,750) of eligible voters said "No", while 43.6% (132,832) of them said "Yes." Therefore, the city council concluded that the bid would be withdrawn. [114]

Canada's development as a winter sport nation

Canada increased its medal totals in each successive Winter Games from Calgary until Vancouver in 2010. Canada Winter Olympic medals 1988-2010.png
Canada increased its medal totals in each successive Winter Games from Calgary until Vancouver in 2010.

In light of the 1976 Summer Olympics disastrous financial legacy, the Calgary Olympic organizing committee, OCO'88, parlayed its ability to generate television and sponsorship revenues, along with the three levels of government support, into what was ultimately a C$170 million surplus. [44] While OCO'88 reported officially a surplus after the Games were over, the accounting practices of the final report did not include federal, provincial, and municipal capital and operations funding infrastructures. [115] [116]

The overall surplus was turned into endowment funds that was split between Canada Olympic Park (C$110 million) and CODA. They were subsequently reformed later, in order to manage the Olympic facilities with a trust fund that had grown steadily to be worth over C$200 million by 2013. [44] Consequently, all five primary facilities built for the 1988 Winter Olympics remained operational for their intended purposes 25 years after the Games concluded. [117]

Calgary and Canmore became the heart of winter sport in Canada, as CODA (now known as WinSport) established itself as the nation's leader in developing elite winter athletes. For the 2006 Winter Olympics, a quarter of Canada's Olympic winter athletes were from the Calgary region and three-quarters of its medalists were from or trained in Alberta. [109] Before 1988, Canada was not a winter sports power. The nation's five overall medals won in Calgary was its second best total at a Winter Olympics, behind the seven overall medals it won at the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. [23] After 1988, Canada won an increasing number of gold and overall medals at each successive Winter Olympics. [118] It culminated toward an overall performance of 26 medals won at the 2010 Winter Olympics, which included an Olympic record of 14 gold medals. This achievement was more than the previous record of 13 Olympic gold medals won by both the Soviet Union in 1976 and Norway in 2002. [119] Until 2010, Norway won the most Olympic gold medals on home soil at the 1952 Winter Olympics. At the 2018 Winter Olympics, Canada earned its highest overall medal count in the Winter Olympics to date, with a total of 29 medals. [120]

See also

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  1. The emblem is a stylized, pentagon-shaped, snowflake and maple leaf. It is made up of five large and five small letters of "C." The large "C"s symbolizes the country of Canada. The small "c"s symbolizes the city of Calgary. The whole emblem is above the Olympic rings.
  2. The figure in parentheses represents the number of athletes each nation brought to the Games, including both medal and demonstration sports and whether or not they competed, as recorded in the XV Olympic Winter Games Official Report. [99]


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Further reading

External video
Nuvola apps kaboodle.svg The Official Calgary 1988 Winter Olympic Film on YouTube
Preceded by
Winter Olympics

XV Olympic Winter Games (1988)
Succeeded by