University of Calgary
UofC Navigation

Celebrating 50 Years: 1988

University hosts Winter Olympic Games

Calgary was host to the XV Winter Olympic Games from 13-28 February 1988. Selected as host city in 1981, the 1988 Games were the first Winter Games to be held in Canada. A record 57 countries participated in the Games, with 1423 athletes competing and hundreds more involved as alternates. 

The University of Calgary was home to the Athlete’s Village – consisting of the Physical Education complex, the Dining Centre, and the student residences. Mike McAdam, head of UofC ancillary services and the operator of the village, reported that there were no major problems during the Games, “just a hundred minor things”, adding that the years of planning for the Games had paid off and that he had received nothing but favourable comments. “Athletes say this is the best Olympic village ever, and that the food is the best they’ve tasted at any competition anywhere.” The new training facilities in the Physical Education building – which was part of the village -- was also highly rated by athletes: it was the first time such facilities were located within their living area at any Olympic games.

Not surprisingly, the Olympic Oval reported that athletes and coaches rated it as the best speed skating facility in any Olympics. The Calgary Games were the first time Olympic speed skating events were held in an indoor facility. An indoor rink was deemed necessary to ensure that the events would proceed despite severely negative temperatures or ice-melting Chinook winds, either of which were possible in the city during February. Even prior to the Games’ opening, the nature of the ice in the facility resulted in numerous world and Canadian records were being set, and in several athletes careening into the end boards as their faster-than-normal skating speeds resulted in out of control corners!

During the Games students had a two week-long extended Reading Week(s) and support staff were granted 5 days of paid “Olympic leave”, but campus departments and administrative units continued to operate much as usual. The campus was festooned with Olympic pageantry and the university was host to the Olympic Arts Festival – a panoply of exhibits, music, dance and drama productions. The university also received numerous permanent art acquisitions, including Brothers of the Wind and Spire – both of which are well known to visitors to the Oval.

Despite being one of the most expensive Olympics held up until then, the Calgary Games realized over $140 million in profit revenue. At the closing ceremonies, held in McMahon Stadium, International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch declared the Calgary Games “the most successful Olympic Games ever”.

Back to Celebrating 50 Years homepage