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Calgary: A city where sport means something

Posted: Wednesday, October 29, 2008 | 12:20 PM

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It’s about time that Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame found a permanent home again. Let’s face it - it’s long overdue.

The choice of Calgary and its citizens to safeguard our sporting legacy is the not only the right one, it’s the only one that makes any sense at all.

Why?

A regard for legacy

It’s simple. In the Stampede City sport really means something. And I’m talking about sport that goes beyond the professional team games that dominate the consciousness of our major metropolis. I’m thinking of the reverence for athletes and builders who have helped to shape our nation’s story on ice and snow as well as the waterways and cinder tracks of distant lands.

There’s something about Calgary that just oozes a regard for legacy.

There is for instance the fact that the most successful Olympic Winter Games in history were staged in Calgary in 1988. In speaking with athletes from around the world there is a tremendous affection for those Games and the lingering amazement that they were celebrated almost entirely within a large urban area.

The Calgary Olympics, as we all know, made a profit, and the venues remain in tact. They are living, working monuments and illustrate everyday the effect sport can have on a burgeoning and youthful city.

The Olympic Speed Skating Oval and Canada Olympic Park are thriving. The Nordic facility at Canmore, 45 minutes to the West, has been revitalized to host world calibre events on a continuing basis.

In the Rockies, at Lake Louise, the best alpine ski racers pay a visit every winter and the World Cup event there is beloved to even the discerning Austrians. Calgary is also the home to both of our national hockey teams.

The Olympic Saddledome, which was the stage for the great figure skating battle between Brian Orser and Brian Boitano as well as the wonderful silver-medal performance of Elizabeth Manley back in 1988, welcomed the world championships again in 2006.

Produces champions

And Calgary also supports professional sport while producing champions. The Canadian Football League’s Stampeders and National Hockey League’s Flames are well loved whilst their stars become active members of the community. Calgary, it turns out, is a good place to live if you’re a player because you are valued and appreciated.

The summer sports scene is also strong in Calgary. It is home to most members of the men’s Olympic gymnastics team. The swimming and track and field environments at the University of Calgary churn out national team members on a consistent basis.

So, as I stood there in a corporate office, high above Bay Street in Toronto’s financial district and got the word that Calgary would get Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame – I smiled to myself. And I looked around to see the honoured members of the Hall that were in attendance as they nodded with approval. People like three-time Olympic medallist and cyclist Curt Harnett, himself an Ontarian.

And then there was Marnie McBean, a rower and Canada’s most-decorated summer Olympian. She was positively beaming.

“It’s a passionate city,” McBean pointed out. “Think about it. What made those Olympics in 1988 so great? It was the volunteers, it was the people.”

Marnie McBean was right.

Calgary’s corporate support and its infrastructure for this project may have won the bid and secured the new building that will house Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

But it is this belief in legacy and conviction that the Hall of Fame actually means something that carried the day.

Calgary is a city whose heart has been captured by sport.

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