Fourth time lucky in 1988 for Calgary Olympic bid

Success! In 1981 Calgary finally got the nod to host the 1988 Winter Games.

Alberta came up short for 1964, 1968, 1972 Games

The city puts together an impressive slide show for the IOC vote in Baden-Baden, West Germany. 1:58

Olympics boosters in Calgary are taking another kick at the can, 30 years after the city hosted the 1988 Winter Games.

On Nov. 13, Calgarians are scheduled to vote in a plebiscite whether they agree the city should put forth another bid, this time for the 2026 Games.

The effort is facing some headwinds, though, from a city council that is losing its enthusiasm for pursuing the bid further.

If Calgary keeps going with its bid, however, it's a city that knows what to expect, as it has been down this road before — four times, in fact, to win the privilege of hosting the Winter Olympics.

The bid committee presented an animated slide show they hoped would impress the IOC. (CBC Archives/The National)

Back in 1981, hopes were high in Baden-Baden, West Germany, as the IOC was poised to select of the host city for the 1988 Games.

"I don't know how you could make a better presentation than the representatives from Calgary made today," said Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed.

Bid committees in Alberta had previously made attempts for the Games in 1964, 1968 and 1972 (for Banff).

Slide show made the pitch

"Wooing delegates with an animated slide show, Calgary made its sales pitch," said CBC reporter David Bazay.

The Calgary team also promised their Games would have a budget of $450 million — more than either of their competitors had pledged to spend. 

The other contenders were Cortina d'Ampezzo in Italy and the Swedish city of Falun.

Frank King, leader of the Calgary bid committee, was also optimistic about the city's chances.

"We are happy," he said with a laugh. "It's been such a long time ... now we have about 30 more hours to wait and we'll know what the result of all this work is."

The bid committee is jubilant when Calgary gets the nod for the 1988 Games. 2:23


The next day, the decision was announced — in French — that the Games were going to Calgary.

The bid committee donned white cowboy hats after jumping up to congratulate each other. 

"After 30 years, at last we've got it," said King. "Hallelujah!"

King had a prediction, too.

"It's going to change the future of Calgary," he told reporters. "Calgary will become now an international city."

'An Olympic capital'

Calgary mayor Ralph Klein had to sign a document agreeing that he'd oversee the organization of the 1988 Games. (CBC Archives/The National)

Calgary mayor Ralph Klein felt the same way.

"Beyond sport it means Calgary has gained its place in the international world," he said. "It is now not only a financial centre and an oil capital, it is an Olympic capital."

For Lougheed, it was a confirmation of Alberta's status in Canada.

"It's good for Canada. It balances things," he said. "We had the summer games in Montreal, we've now got the winter games in the west."

Responses to the news were uniformly positive in the host city.

"In Calgary, there was joy and jubilation," said reporter Eve Savory. She was in a room that erupted in hugs and applause as the news was announced.

All the superlatives

General agreement is positive, despite the price tag. 1:21

"The work begins now," said an organizer who was still catching his breath. "But at least the suspense is over."

People on the street described the news as "fantastic," "great," "terrific," "super," and "excellent."

"Now I'm going to have to learn to ski no matter what happens!" said one woman.