This week VANOC released the first of three reports on past North American Olympic Winter Games. Lake Placid in 1980 was this week, Calgary will be next Monday and Salt Lake City will be the following Monday.
These reports are a compilation of news stories and reports on the Games, with some reflection from 27-, 19- and five-year perspectives following the Olympics.
One of the themes of these reports, according to a VANOC release, is the sporting legacies these three Olympic Winter Games produced. Lake Placid, for instance, is a national training centre for several Olympic winter sports and numerous American Olympians are from or have trained in Lake Placid. Similar statements will be made in the reports on Calgary and Salt Lake City.
But anyone who thinks that Whistler or Vancouver will attain similar status after the 2010 Games is not seeing the bigger picture. The 2010 Olympics are capable of delivering many legacies for Vancouver, Whistler, British Columbia and Canada — tourism, infrastructure, international contacts, great stories, legendary performances and perhaps even a new standard of excellence for Canadian Olympic athletes. But there isn’t likely to be a series of World Cup events coming to Vancouver or Whistler in the years following 2010, and Calgary will remain the national training centre for most winter sports.
Canada has some history in underutilizing Olympic facilities. There has never been a bicycle inside the spectacular velodrome built for the Summer Games in Montreal since 1976. The building has housed conventions and horticultural shows, but no bike racing.
Much of the safety system and racing infrastructure that was supposed to make Nakiska a national training centre for the alpine ski team was removed in the summer of 1988, just a few months after the Calgary Olympics. This had to do with a private operator’s needs in opening up Nakisksa to the public and running a brand new ski hill. The situation has turned around in the last decade as Nakiska, with its extensive snow-making system, has hosted many national ski teams preparing for the World Cup season.
And the Calgary Olympic Development Association, which was set up prior to the 1988 Olympics to run the speed skating oval, Canada Olympic Park and a national sport school for winter and summer athletes, is still in business. In fact, VANOC is helping fund a very active CODA, which has recently put money into the ski jumps at COP, built a halfpipe identical to the one under construction at Cypress for the 2010 Games, and helps maintain the speed skating oval.