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Frank King, who brought Olympics to Calgary, dies at 81

King was the chief executive officer of the city's organizing committee and, along with Bob Niven, brought the Winter Games to Calgary. That changed the face of the city and made Canada a powerhouse in winter sport.

King was the chief executive officer of Calgary's organizing committee for the '88 games

Frank King was the CEO and chairman of Calgary's local Olympic committee for the 1988 Winter Games. (Genevieve Normand/CBC Radio-Canada)

​Frank King, one of the architects of the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988, has died at the age of 81.

King was the chief executive officer of Calgary's organizing committee and, along with Bob Niven, brought a games to Calgary that changed the face of the city and made Canada a powerhouse in winter sport.

A competitive runner who competed in Seniors Games, King died Wednesday of a heart attack while training at a downtown club, according to Niven.

King and Niven were both members of the Calgary Booster Club in 1978 when the club president asked if anyone was interested in bringing a Winter Olympics to the city.

Frank King, right, the chief executive officer of Calgary's organizing committee, celebrates in Baden-Baden, West Germany, with Canadian delegates after the election of Calgary to host 1988 Winter Olympic. (Kurt Strumpf/Associated Press)

"Frank and I just sort of smiled at one another and put up our hands and that was the beginning of it all," Niven told The Canadian Press on Thursday.

Niven said King was a big reason why the city got the Games. 

"I think probably his genuineness, his kindness, his sense of humour ... rose all through the rest of it," he told The Homestretch. "There's no question he was a visionary and very creative ... he just created trust. Trust with the people of Calgary, trust with the IOC, trust with the governments — it was a very major component of why we won the Games."

Niven said King was a sportsman throughout his life and was training for the Huntsman World Senior Games when he died. 

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he was saddened to hear of King's death. 

Frank King spoke with CBC Calgary on Jan. 17, 2018. 0:41

"Modern Calgary bears many of Frank's fingerprints. His passion and selfless commitment to our city and Calgarians resulted in the sports and athletic legacy that has become an intrinsic part of who we are," he said in an emailed statement. 

"He was a booster (in all the best sense of the word) and an inspiration. He understood the potential of our city and fought hard to make it a reality. Personally, I'm so grateful to Frank for his friendship and advice. He was incredibly generous with his time and lessons from his amazing lifetime of experience. He'll be well missed and never forgotten."

Niven said King's legacy will be felt for years to come. 

"His legacy, without any doubt, is the facilities and the programs that he's left for young athletes and our young people across this country. It's not just Calgary, it's across this country. You saw it at Pyeongchang [Olympics in February] ... most of those athletes trained at facilities [built] for the '88 Games. So I think that's a fabulous legacy."

In this Sept. 22, 1981, IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, left, on looks as Frank King, chief executive officer of Calgary's organizing committee, points to model of Calgary's sports area while Canadian native Lombart Fox watches during exhibition of the candidates for 1988 Olympic Games in Baden-Baden, West Germany. (Kurt Strumpf/Associated Press)

With files from The Homestretch

With files from CBC News