A grand success

The Olympic Oval has become a special place in Calgary for amateur sports and recreation

As soon as the last firework faded after the closing ceremonies of the 1988 Winter Olympics, the legacy of the Calgary Olympic Oval began—welcoming more than 4000 athletes annually to make use of the facility’s indoor running track, sprint pad, weight room, hockey rinks and world’s fastest speed skating ice for more than two decades.

“Our facility has been successful in helping athletes thrive and achieve in their sport because we have always been part of the high performance sport community,” says two-time Olympic gold medalist Catriona Le May Doan, now associate director for the Olympic Oval. “This has separated us from simply becoming a venue. We are not just an ice rink or an indoor track.

The Olympic Oval has four high performance sport programs, which means the Olympic Oval staff—from the director to the Zamboni drivers—are always thinking of how to improve athletic performances. Since the 1988 Olympic Games, the motto of higher, faster, stronger, has remained the ambition of our building.

Catriona Le May Doan

That shared ambition has helped more than 65 athletes, who have been part of the Olympic Oval’s high performance programs, to qualify and compete in Winter Olympics and 29 of those to win Olympic medals in women’s hockey and short track and long track speed skating, including Canada’s most decorated Olympian, Cindy Klassen.

Outside of the Olympic Oval’s high performance sport programs, the facility’s weight room, sprint pad and running track are used by all national team athletes who train in Calgary including bobsledders, lugers, ski jumpers, nordic & alpine skiers, track and field athletes and even some NHL players.

“The Olympic Oval is more than ice. When you come here to train you feel like you are part of a tradition, but also part of a group of people who really understand what you are doing and why you are doing it,” says Denny Morrison, a speed skating Olympic silver medalist at the 2006 Torino Olympics. “We have all the things we need under one roof, which is something that doesn’t exist anywhere else that I know.”

Over the past two decades, the Canadian Sport Centre Calgary, the Roger Jackson Centre for Health and Wellness Research at the University of Calgary Sport Medicine Centre and the University of Calgary’s Human Performance Lab have come to reside alongside the Olympic Oval, within the Faculty of Kinesiology, giving high performance, varsity and every day athletes access to everything an athlete needs, including a university education.

Roger Jackson, one of the founders of the Olympic Oval project, now CEO of the Own the Podium 2010 credits the Olympic Oval’s legacy to a rare synchronization. “It is almost unique in the world because of the harmony of shared high performance, public and University of Calgary use. There are so many practical things about this building that make it so useful,” enthuses Jackson.

The Olympic Oval has surpassed all expectations we set out for it 22 years ago. It has been used by several national team programs, most notably putting Canada on the world map in speed skating; it has been enormously useful to the university’s athletic program and been an extremely important public facility for indoor jogging, cycling programs, and other special events. It has been a grand success.

Rodger Jackson

As well as giving high performance and varsity athletes a great experience, the Olympic Oval has also provided the general public with a world-class activity centre for public skating and running, as well as special events. Annually the facility hosts Papa John’s Family Fun Day, drawing up to 6,000 people to enjoy public skating and a variety of family friendly games and activities.

Hopefully the Olympic Oval will continue to draw Canadians to its high performance programs, summer camps, indoor running, public skating, World Cup competitions, special events and more—continuing the legacy that began with the 1988 Olympics.