Five Things You Should Know About the Calgary 1988 Olympic Winter Games
Celebrate past achievements and new hopes at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame’s exhibit: PyeongChang 2018: United in Spirit.
Photograph courtesy of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame | SPORTSHALL.CA
This year marks thirty years since Eddie the Eagle flew down Canada Olympic Park’s ski jump, the Jamaican bobsleigh team barreled down the bobsleigh track, and athletes like Karen Percy, Brian Orser, and Elizabeth Manley become permanently etched into Canadians’ hearts and minds. In celebration of the upcoming 2018 Olympic Winter Games, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame opened a new exhibit – PyeongChang 2018: United in Spirit. The exhibit highlights a few of this year’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes, as well as the thirtieth anniversary of the ’88 Olympics.
For Gladys Serafino, collections assistant, the most uniquely Calgarian aspect of the ’88 Winter Games was “the warm atmosphere. People opened up their homes to families of the athletes who couldn’t really afford a hotel. They took in students from SAIT because the SAIT students were out of their residence for the period of the games and there was an adopt-a-student program. It was things like that that were really warm and welcoming and made sure that everybody enjoyed themselves and were taken care of.”
Here are five things you should know (or maybe missed the first time around) about the Calgary 1988 Olympic Winter Games.
Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall won a bronze medal for Canada in the Ice Dance event. They were the first Canadians to ever do so.
While the Jamaican bobsleigh team and Eddie the Eagle have now both been immortalized in film, for Serafino, two athletes that also deserve the limelight are history makers Tracy Wilson and Rob McCall. “They were just fabulous skaters and I think people missed them because it’s a bronze medal and they really didn’t focus that much on ice dance at that point. They were amazing skaters. They did a great performance on those Games and I think they deserve to be recognized,” says Serafino.
Put a pin in this piece of trivia. Pin-trading was all the rage at the Calgary Winter Olympics.
An event that became hugely popular during the ’88 Games was happening at the sidelines rather than on the Olympic stage. “Pin-trading became a spectator event. They even had a tent down at the Olympic Plaza for people to go and trade their pins,” says Serafino.
Calgary shook things up when it came to presenting athletes with medals.
Calgarians started the medal party. “We were one of the first cities to actually have our medal ceremonies at night. We had them down at the Olympic Plaza, with the dancing and the medal presentation. We were one of the first cities to do that,” says Serafino. “That really made it special for everybody. That meant you didn’t have to be out at Nakiska to see the medals being presented. You could see Karen Percy get her medal in front of you.”
Hidy and Howdy, Calgary’s Olympic mascots, have been living the good life in retirement after the ’88 Games.
Hidy and Howdy reside at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and with the International Olympic Committee – and with each person who brought the bears to life. “After the games, two sets [of Hidy and Howdy] came here to what was then the Olympic Museum and is now the Olympic Collections at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. One set went to the IOC and the rest were destroyed and pieces were given to the people who acted in them. After the Games, and this is an Olympic thing, the mascots are retired, so you’ll never see Hidy and Howdy out again or any of the mascots from the other games,” says Serafino.
The 1988 Olympic Winter Games torches are hot commodities.
There were relatively few torches made for the Calgary Games, although Calgarians can see the torch that began Calgary’s Olympic fever at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. Around 100 torches were made. “We didn’t make that many and they were never given out to the public. Now, they make them in the thousands and you can buy the torch. Calgary did not do that. They went to dignitaries, IOC members, and they stayed in some cities. The City of Calgary has one and the City of Canmore has one, but they did not go to the general public, which is why they’ve become a very highly collectible item. The torch that was lit at the ceremony in Greece, then started the relay in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and finished here in Calgary, is here in the collection of the museum on exhibit right now.”
PyeongChang 2018: United in Spirit is at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. For more information, please visit sportshall.ca. The PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games runs from February 9 to 25. For more information, please visit olympic.org.