Sunday, September 23, 2018

Gary Johnson

Calgary Olympic memories still fresh

  • gj-Olympics-021518

    Winter Olympics fans and Calgary residents mingled on the streets of the Alberta, Canada city in February 1988.

    Staff photo by Gary Johnson
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Thirty years ago, I stood in the Canadian Rockies, watching and listening as world-class skiers in a quest for Olympic glory rocketed past me down the side of a mountain.

Calgary, Alberta, Canada was the place to be in February 1988.

Before children and other adult responsibilities, my wife, Patty, and I decided we should attend the Olympic Winter Games north of the border. My family has numerous relatives in Canada, including in Calgary, so they were more than happy to have visitors from The States for the Games. We were joined by another couple, Chuck and Jo Blaschko of Arcadia. Chuck was my first boss in the newspaper business.     

We decided to go the first week of the Games because we’re cheap. Tickets were less expensive and more available for preliminary rounds of most events: $20 for luge and ski jumping; $25 for hockey and slalom skiing; and $30 for the downhill. At this year’s Olympics in South Korea, you would pay hundreds of dollars for many events.

It was money well spent. We saw the gold medal Russian hockey team win two games at the Saddledome over Austria and West Germany — yes, there were still two Germanys in ‘88 — and my wife got hit by a hockey puck during a game. She was unharmed and it made for a great souvenir. We loved climbing the ski hills at Nakiska Ski Area where you could get close to the downhillers as they zoomed by. And we developed new appreciation for the luge at Canada Olympic Park, where we spotted former Chrysler executive Lee Iacocca watching the best sliders in the world. (His fur coat was nicer than our jackets.)  

Calgary had its stars. It was the Olympics of men’s figure skaters Brian Boitano of the U.S.and Brian Orser of Canada, and Katarina Witt of East Germany. Italy’s swashbuckling Alberto Tomba dominated the ski slopes by day and the parties by night. And, of course, speedskater Dan Jansen fell in both his races shortly after finding out about the death of his sister. 

Calgary had other memorable, though less athletic performers, such as ski jumper Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards and the Jamaican national bobsled team. Both ended up becoming the topics of full-length feature films.

We made memories in Calgary and on the way home, our traveling partners suggested we name our first born son Cal Gary in honor of our most memorable February. We passed on the idea, but every four years we reminisce about those Games of Calgary and wonder why we don’t venture to the Olympics again. Maybe we will some day.








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