The Winter Olympics
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) staged the "International Sports Week 1924" in Chamonix, France, and recognized it as the first Olympic Winter Games in 1926. The event saw 258 athletes (13 women and 245 men) from 16 nations competing in 16 events. The first gold medal was awarded to Charles Jewtraw of the United States in men's 500m speed skating, Finland earned medals in all five speed skating events, Norway dominated the Nordic skiing events and the Canadian hockey team won all five of its games, outscoring their opponents 110 to 3.
The Winter Games have been held in the USA four times, in Austria and France three times, in Switzerland, Norway and Japan twice, and in Yugoslavia, Canada and Italy once. The 2006 Winter Games will be held in Torino, Italy.
Becoming a host
The Calgary Olympic Development Association (CODA) was founded in 1956 to bid to host the Winter Olympic Games on behalf of Calgary. After three unsuccessful attempts to host the 1964, 1968 and 1972 games, the organization was disbanded. CODA was reincorporated in 1979, set its sights on the 1988 Games, and on Sept. 30, 1981, was granted the XV Winter Games.
Preparing for the games
The 1988 Calgary Olympic Organizing Committee (OCO '88) was created to organize the event, and CODA was restructured to manage the "legacy" of the Games. CODA's new mandate was to ensure that there would be continuing use of the Olympic venues long after the games were finished, and this influenced the construction of the Olympic facilities.
With the bid accepted, the work of designing and building the many needed facilities began in earnest. Ironically, the venue that would become the flagship of the Calgary Winter Games, was not one of the originally proposed sites. While stopped at a red light on the way to do a technical review of the proposed sites, Brian Murphy, VP of sports, noticed that the Paskapoo Ski Hill was up for sale. He immediately envisioned the luge and bobsleigh track and the ski jumps at the site and when he returned to Calgary, he had his vision put onto paper. Initially, his vision was not well received, but the new president, Bill Pratt, embraced it, the Canadian Government bought the hill, and Canada Olympic Park (COP) was born.
Let the Games Begin
The Calgary Olympic Games officially began on February 13 with the lighting of the Olympic Flame, and for the first time, the athletes were allowed to sit in the stands during the Opening Ceremonies. The XV Olympic Winter Games saw 1,423 athletes (313 women and 1,110 men) from 57 nations compete in 46 events.
For the first time, the Winter Olympics were held over 16 days, and the number of events increased from the 39 held at Sarajevo. 1988 was the first time that speed skating occurred indoors, and that the Alpine events took place on artificial snow.
The Calgary Games had many memorable moments, from figure skating's "Battles of the Brians and the Carmens", and Liz Manley's surprise Silver medal in women's figure skating, to the first appearance of the Jamaican bobsleigh team and the flights of Britain's "Eddie the Eagle". Finland's Matti Nykanen became the first ski jumper to win three gold medals, and Germany's Georg Hackl began a medal-winning streak that has continued through the 2002 Winter Games at Salt Lake City. Speed Skater Christa Rothenburger won the 1,000m and seven months later she earned a silver medal in cycling to become the only athlete ever to win medals in the Winter and Summer Olympics in the same year.
COP saw its share of controversy, including the postponement of some events due to Chinook winds, but the athletes and fans were undaunted.
Despite the delays, all of the events did take place, and the Games closed on February 28, 1988. While Canada only won 5 medals, the IOC President called the Calgary Olympic Games "The Best Games Ever".
After the Games
In July of 1988, the ownership of COP was transferred from OCO '88 to CODA, and along with the other Olympic facilities, has continued to provide both recreational facilities for the people of Calgary; and world-class training facilities for the athletes of Canada, and the World. Many Olympic athletes trained at the various facilities leading up to the 2002 Salt Lake Games.
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