This week in history: Preparing for the 1988 winter games

The date was March 4, 1981 and the headlines heralded a major step in getting Calgary closer to being able to host the 1988 Olympic Winter Games. The night before, by a vote of 11-4, Council had decided on the site of a new coliseum. Council gave the green light to a 20,000-seat structure at Stampede Park. There had been much lobbying by some aldermen to build the massive structure on the east side of downtown – between Seventh and Ninth Avenues, east of the LRT line. Then-Mayor Ralph Klein opposed the plan for a downtown arena saying businesses would have to be expropriated, a problem that didn’t exist with the Stampede Park option. 

Olympic Coliseum. City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives.

The majority of aldermen agreed. The Kinsmen Centre – which occupied the Stampede Park site – would have to be torn down and replaced, which added an additional $2.5-million to the $60-million expected cost of the coliseum. But there was a sense of urgency to pick a spot and start building before the International Olympic Committee chose the host city later that year.

On Sept. 30, 1981, the IOC voted 48-31 to award Calgary the Games. As the Games drew closer, Calgarians were eager to show the world our Western hospitality with more than 22,000 people signing up to volunteer for 9,400 positions. Calgary went on to host a successful Games immortalizing Eddie the Eagle Edwards and the Jamaican bobsled team – despite some chinook winds wreaking havoc, bringing temperatures to nearly 17C at some points during competition.

Image: The City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives.