Post image for An Unending Flame

An Unending Flame

by Kelsey Hipkin on Feb 23, 2013

Can you feel it?

So said the motto from the 1988 Winter Olympics taking place from Feb. 13 to 28, making Calgary the centre stage for the world’s best winter athletes.

“I was the perfect age in 1988, 16, just old enough to be able to go downtown by myself and just old enough to be able to experience the Olympics in ways that only a teenager can experience them,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi at a Celebrate ’88 event at the Olympic Oval. “Meeting people from around the world (was an) amazing thing.”

A lot has changed in the 25 years since Calgary hosted the Olympics, especially in the realm of real estate. In 1988 there were 14,110 sales in Calgary with homes selling for an average price of $101,423. In comparison, there were 21,205 sales in 2012 for an average of $428,644.

“I remember telling clients they would never see interest rates under 10 per cent in their lifetime, they were at 12 per cent then,” said CREB® president Becky Walters who was just starting out as a REALTOR® in 1988. “We had 15 REALTORS® in our office, now we have 115. Cellphones were rare and built into cars.”

Facilities constructed for the Olympics have become mainstays in Calgary’s landscape. Canada Olympic Park — the premier site of the Olympics — is home to the WinSport Winter Sport Institute, Hockey Canada offices and continues to be a premier training facility for athletes around the world as well as a popular winter venue for Calgary families.

Some buildings were torn down and Olympic Plaza constructed in its downtown location at a cost of $5.5 million. The Plaza was the site of the medal presentation ceremonies in ’88 and while it fell into a bit of disrepair in the years following the games, has since regained some of its former glory as a popular lunch destination for the downtown crowd and is the home of Calgary’s only outdoor refrigerated ice surface in the City.

While a lot of the Olympic infrastructure remains, according to Nenshi, it’s Calgary’s sense of community and volunteerism that is the big legacy remaining from the Games.

“From Canada Olympic Park, to the Canmore Nordic Centre to the work at Nakiska — (they’re) all great, amazing legacies for everyday sport and high performance sport in this city,” he said. “But the legacy of proving what we could do as Calgarians, what we could do as volunteers, what we could build together as a community and what we could show the world we were capable of I think is the true legacy of 1988 and it is a legacy that we live every single day.”

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