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XV Olympic Winter Games
1988 wolympics logo.png
The emblem is a stylized, pentagon-shaped, snowflake and maple leaf,
made up of five large and five small letters of “C”
to symbolize the country of Canada and the city of Calgary, above the Olympic rings.
Host city Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Nations participating 57
Athletes participating 1423 (1122 men, 301 women)
Events 46 in 6 sports
Opening ceremony February 13
Closing ceremony February 28
Officially opened by Governor General Jeanne Sauvé
Athlete's Oath Pierre Harvey
Judge's Oath Suzanna Morrow-Francis
Olympic Torch Robyn Perry
Stadium McMahon Stadium

The 1988 Winter Olympics, officially known as the XV Olympic Winter Games, were a winter multi-sport event which was celebrated in Calgary, Alberta 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 Albertville, France. Similar to the 1988 Summer Olympics, the competition at these Winter Olympics was dominated by teams of the Soviet Union and East Germany, countries which ceased to exist before the next Winter Games.

As at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, the Canadian team failed to win a gold medal. Only the French team at the 1924 Winter Olympics in Chamonix, the Swiss team at the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz and the Yugoslav team at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo had previously failed to win a 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 Falun, Sweden and Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy. (Cortina d'Ampezzo had previously hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics.) The vote was conducted by the IOC in Baden-Baden, West Germany, 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
Calgary, Alberta  Canada 35 48
Falun  Sweden 25 31
Cortina d'Ampezzo  Italy 18 -


All levels of Canadian government helped to fund the Games. The federal government, in Ottawa, provided $225 million (note all figures listed in CDN funds, not adjusted for inflation), the province of Alberta 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 Alberta is plagued unpredictably with a weather phenomenon called a chinook wind, which are periods where the weather becomes extremely unseasonably mild (above freezing) 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 Ottawa and went directly east to Montreal; this distance (about 200 km) is the shortest in Summer Olympic Games history so far.[citation needed] For Canada's first Winter Olympics, the Olympic torch (modeled after the Calgary Tower) was carried by both famous and ordinary Canadians in a continuous 88-day run across Canada, covering all 10 provinces and 2 territories (Yukon and the Northwest Territories; the territory of Nunavut 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 Victoria, British Columbia. Internationally recognized Canadian folk/country musicians Gordon Lightfoot and Ian Tyson were two of the featured performers at the opening ceremonies of the games, performing Tyson's "Four Strong Winds" and Lightfoot's "Alberta Bound" while a group of line dancers performed for the crowds.[1]

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 Zoo. They were designed by Sheila Scott of Great Scott Productions, and produced by International Mascot Corporation of Edmonton, Alberta.


Brian Orser carrying the Canadian flag at the opening ceremony

The Games were opened by The Right Honourable Jeanne Sauvé, 23rd Governor General of Canada, on behalf of the Queen of Canada, Elizabeth II at McMahon Stadium.




Canada Olympic Park in 2006.

Organizers and government claimed that the Calgary Olympic Games turned a profit. They declared a surplus of between $90 and $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 Park 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, Banff, and Lake Louise. 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 the National Sport School, 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 Toronto Star in 1999 showed that these financial figures were largely false.[2] 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.[3]


Five world class facilities were built for the games, and several others were improved.

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.[3]

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.[3]


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 Budapest, Hungary, 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 City and Washington, D.C. on the United States. Calgary then sent an offer to step in to be an alternate host of the 2002 Winter Olympics, if Salt Lake City 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 Vancouver as the city that would be the Canadian bid internationally. Eventually, Vancouver was chosen to host the 2010 Winter Olympics over PyeongChang, Korea, and Salzburg, Austria in July 2003 at the 115th IOC Session in Prague, Czech Republic.

As in the 1976 Summer Olympics, the host Canadian team failed to win a gold medal in the 1988 Winter Olympics. The Canadian Olympic Committee, determined not to see this happen a third time at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, launched the Own the Podium – 2010 program. Mogul skiier Alexandre Bilodeau finally won Canada's first gold medal on home soil at Vancouver and Canada finished off the Vancouver Games by winning 14 gold medals in all, a record for any nation at a single Winter Olympics.

Continuing funding of venues

The Alberta 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 Park (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, Alberta in the past. For example, CDN$25.6-million was provided to renovate the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park area, in time for the 2005 Alberta Centennial FIS World Cup event. CDN$600,000 was spent in maintaining the ski jumping venue at Canada Olympic Park [4]. 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).[5]


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

A set of medals from the Games on display at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary.
Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1  Soviet Union (URS) 11 9 9 29
2  East Germany (GDR) 9 10 6 25
3  Switzerland (SUI) 5 5 5 15
4  Finland (FIN) 4 1 2 7
5  Sweden (SWE) 4 0 2 6
6  Austria (AUT) 3 5 2 10
7  Netherlands (NED) 3 2 2 7
8  West Germany (FRG) 2 4 2 8
9  United States (USA) 2 1 3 6
10  Italy (ITA) 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 Fiji, Guam, Guatemala, Jamaica, and Netherlands Antilles.

See also


  1. ^ "Gordon Lightfoot @ 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics". YouTube user shebinkow65. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  2. ^ Walkom, Thomas (Feb. 8, 1999). "The Olympic Myth of Calgary". The Toronto Star. 
  3. ^ a b c "Legacies of North American Olympic Winter Games - Vancouver 2010". Archived from the original on 2009-10-04. Retrieved 2009-10-02. 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ "Feds chip in $40 million for Calgary sports paradise". CBC News. 5 October 2007. 


External links

Preceded by
Winter Olympics

XV Olympic Winter Games (1988)
Succeeded by

Simple English

The 1988 Winter Olympics, officially known as the XV Olympic Winter Games, were celebrated in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and opened by Governor General Jeanne Sauvé. The Olympics were highly successful financially as they brought in million-dollar profits. The games left a lasting impression on the host city and gave it a new identity from a cowtown to a large commercial sector of the country.

1988 was also the last year that the Paralympic Games and the Winter Olympics were held in separate cities; all subsequent games have been hosted by the same city or a city nearby.

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



Calgary first tried for the Olympics in 1964, and again in 1968.

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Olympic Games
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