Remember Eddie the Eagle? What about Elizabeth Manley or the Jamaican Bobsled Team? While memories may have faded since the 1988 Olympics, the lasting impact of the 15th Olympic Winter Games is obvious.
Thrusting Calgary into the global spotlight, the games helped the city evolve into the world class city we call home. In addition to actual Olympic venues that saw such events as “the Battle of the Brians”, many areas of the city were established in the lead up to the games.
Formerly home to Paskapoo Ski Hill, Canada Olympic Park (COP) is perhaps the most popular of all the venues constructed for the games. The $200 million park is now a year round hub of activity for professional athletes as well as the general public, and has provided a centrepiece for development in the area.
“My son actually uses COP a lot in the summer mountain biking with friends. I mean it’s right there – why not use it?” says Bowness resident Melanie Magnuson, who has lived in the area since 1979.
Welcoming nearly 300,000 ski and snowboard visitors every winter and now offering North America’s fastest zipline to go along with the park’s mountain bike trails, budding Olympians can try their hand at any number of activities, all of which are just a short drive away.
“My kids have also gone to different camps that COP has had and have had a great time,” says Magnuson. “My kids tried out biathlon, mountain biking and other sports to hopefully get some interest from the younger kids to maybe someday get involved with the Olympics. My son’s school is also a partner with COP and every year they have ski lessons through COP. Then their school also goes out to the Canmore Nordic Centre for cross country skiing.”
Beating out Falun, Sweden and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy to host the games, the winning bid was Calgary’s fourth attempt to host the games. Then home to just over 650,000 people, the average price of a Calgary home in 1988 was just $101,423. Now home to 15 buildings topping 150 metres, Calgary’s downtown skyline then boasted just seven skyscrapers of such heights.
Despite the expansion that has occurred across the city in the intervening years, Magnuson says the area’s proximity to major thoroughfares means getting out of the city hasn’t become a chore for residents.
“It’s easy access when wanting to head out of town via Trans Canada Hwy or Stoney Trail. It really doesn’t take much time at all to get anywhere in the city from Bowness as we have main thoroughfares right there.”
While Calgary has grown from a city of 650,000 to one of nearly 1.2 million, Magnuson says her community still has the same small town feel as it did back then.
“Bowness has a unique community feeling. Most times when talking to someone – they know the same people that you do. We have considered in the past to move elsewhere but it just wouldn’t be the same.”