Features / Calgary / Calgary's Olympic Moment

Could the Olympics really return to Calgary?

All the hoopla, the triumphs, the defeats. The pins, Hidy and Howdy, the pomp and circumstance.

No question, a twinkle still sparkles in the eyes of those who witnessed the Calgary Olympics when they're asked to describe it.

But could the Games really return? Better yet, would we really want them to?

For Frank King, who served as CEO of the 1988 spectacle, the answer is simple.

"We have everything here already," he said. "What happened if Sochi (the 2014 hosts) weren't able to come through? I could almost guarantee you that the Olympics would come back to Calgary tomorrow . . . it would be great."

Other local officials tend to agree with him, including Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who openly mused about hosting another Games during 25th-anniversary celebrations earlier this month, but added it couldn't be done without the help of local residents.

"Frank King and the team ran the 1988 Olympics in Calgary with volunteers because it was the only way we knew how to do it, because we've always been blessed to have that spirit in this city, and that legacy continues to this day," Nenshi said. "To me that's probably the most important part."

There are barriers to bringing the Games back though.

For one, Calgary's climate could get in the way of a possible Summer Games bid — along with the costs for new infrastructure — and Canada's largest city still appears to be eyeing further bids of its own for the Games.

Toronto lost out to Beijing to host the 2008 Olympics but is slowly regaining steam for a run at the 2024 event— the Games aren't typically awarded to the same country twice in such short time periods.

As well, Andrew Rose, an associate dean and faculty chair at the University of California, Berkeley questions why Calgary would be so keen on hosting again. He's spent a great deal of time studying the so-called "Olympic effect," and said there's little net gain for cities after the fact.

"It's incredibly expensive and you get almost nothing out of it except a bunch of facilities that you'll almost never use again, that's more true of the Summer (Games) than the Winter, but it's just ridiculous," he said.

King and other proponents, however, are quick to point out that facilities like the Olympic Oval and Canmore Nordic Centre have played a pivotal role in developing the next generation of athletes.

Still, Rose is not convinced.

"Suppose you are really into curling and you want to build a special facility for curling or speed skating — you should do it anyway, independent of whether there's going to be an Olympics," he said. "The fact that it's going to be used in extra-intense ways for a couple of days during a two-week period we call the Olympics is irrelevant of whether you should make the investment or not."

But King believes there's more to it than that.

"The way people came together was amazing — it's tough to describe," he said. "I think many people would be happy to do it all over again."

1988 Olympics - Day 16 highlights

  • Thousands pack into McMahon Stadium once more to celebrate 16 days of competition during the closing ceremonies.The
  • Soviets do what many expected, capturing gold in men's hockey. Finland winds up with silver and Sweden takes bronze.

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