1988 Winter Olympics


Competition type Olympic Games
Number and Year XV / 1988
Host city Calgary, Canada (Venues)
Opening ceremony 13 February
Closing ceremony 28 February
Competition dates 13 – 28 February
OCOG XV Olympic Winter Games Organizing Committee
Participants 1424 from 57 countries
Medal events 46 in 10 disciplines
Other events 22 in 5 disciplines


Canada has long been a strong proponent of winter sport, but prior to 1988, no Canadian city had hosted the Olympic Winter Games, though several had tried. But in the words of Canadian folk singer, Gordon Lightfoot, the world was “Alberta Bound” in February 1988, as Winter Olympia came to Calgary. Lightfoot, in fact, sang that song at the opening ceremonies. Until the 1990s, perhaps only the majesty of Innsbruck’s two efforts rivaled Calgary’s staging of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games.

After being awarded the 1988 Winter Olympics, Calgary changed every single site that they had proposed to the IOC in their candidature. The reason for this was primarily environmental, as protest groups made certain that the natural terrain would not be unduly harmed by the building of the Olympic sites.

The Games themselves were interrupted by the warm chinook winds that gusted at times up to 60 miles/hour (95 kph), and which forced the rescheduling of many of the ski events. But the weather, beyond control of the OCOG, was the only major problem faced by the Calgary organizers, as the Games went off flawlessly.

The Canadians two great athletic efforts of these Games both came in individual figure skating, and both ended with silver medals. But what a difference in the way they were received! In men’s figures, Brian Orser of Canada was co-favorite with America’s Brian Boitano, but it was thought that the “home” ice and the emotion it brought would help him win. In one of the closest contests ever, Boitano narrowly defeated Orser, and the disappointment in the crowd was palpable, though Orser’s effort gave him nothing to be disappointed about.

In women’s figure skating the battle was thought to be between defending champion Katarina Witt, and America’s Debi Thomas, a Stanford pre-med student who had been 1986 world champion. But Thomas skated poorly and eventually finished third. Nothing could then stop the statuesque Witt from winning, but Thomas’ falter allowed Canada’s Elizabeth Manley to move up to the silver medal. The delight and excitement over this unexpected result seemed to diminish any feelings of loss about the men’s event.

In ice hockey, the Soviets again were dominant. Although Finland managed to defeat the Soviet Union 2-1, it was the only loss the Soviets sustained and they again won the ice hockey gold medal, their 7th since 1956.

Speed skating’s hero was the unlikely Yvonne van Gennip of The Netherlands. All attention was focused on the GDR’s quartet of Karin Kania, Andrea Ehrig, Christa Rothenburger, and Gabi Zange, and the United States’ Bonnie Blair. They skated well, with Blair winning the 500 and Rothenburger the 1,000, and between them, those five won 12 of the available 15 medals. But van Gennip won the other three, the 1,500, 3,000, and 5,000 metres, defeating the favored Ehrig and Zange in the long-distance races.

In men’s speed skating, the real hero was probably a man who never finished a race. Dan Jansen was a favorite in the 500 metres and in the 1,000, he was thought to have a chance to win. But the morning of the first race, the 500, he found out that his sister, who had been ill with leukemia, had died. He elected to skate that night, but fell on the first turn. A few days later, he hoped to redeem himself in the 1,000 metres and thru 600 metres, he had the fastest pace. But he fell again. The world watched and suffered with him but Dan Jansen offered no excuses. He was gracious and magnanimous throughout. Years of effort were lost, certainly by the emotions of the moment, but he responded with the grace so often requested of our Olympians, and yet so rarely offered.

Bid process

Bid voting at the 84th IOC Session in Baden-Baden (West Germany) on 30 September 1981.

Round 1 Round 2
Calgary Canada 35 48
Falun Sweden 25 31
Cortina d'Ampezzo Italy 18


Officially opened by Jeanne SauvéCANGovernor-General
Torchbearer Robyn PerryCANLit flame
Taker of the Athlete's Oath Pierre HarveyCANCCS/CRD
Taker of the Official's Oath Suzi MorrowCANFSK
Olympic Flag Bearer Lucile WheelerCANALPBearer
Anne HeggtveitCANALPBearer
Kathy KreinerCANALPBearer
Nancy GreeneCANALPBearer
Liisa SavijarviCANALPBearer
George MaraCANIHOBearer
Frank SullivanCANIHOBearer
Gaétan BoucherCANSSKBearer
Steve PodborskiCANALPBearer
Vic EmeryCANBOBBearer
Flagbearers Full list

Medal Disciplines

Alpine Skiing Figure Skating Ski Jumping
Biathlon Ice Hockey Speed Skating
Bobsleigh Luge
Cross Country Skiing Nordic Combined

Other Disciplines

Alpine Skiing Curling Short Track Speed Skating
Cross Country Skiing Freestyle Skiing

Medal table

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
Soviet Union URS 11 9 9 29
East Germany GDR 9 10 6 25
Switzerland SUI 5 5 5 15
Finland FIN 4 1 2 7
Sweden SWE 4 0 2 6
Austria AUT 3 5 2 10
Netherlands NED 3 2 2 7
West Germany FRG 2 4 2 8
United States USA 2 1 3 6
Italy ITA 2 1 2 5
France FRA 1 0 1 2
Norway NOR 0 3 2 5
Canada CAN 0 2 3 5
Yugoslavia YUG 0 2 1 3
Czechoslovakia TCH 0 1 2 3
Japan JPN 0 0 1 1
Liechtenstein LIE 0 0 1 1

Most successful competitors

Athlete Nat Gold Silver Bronze Total
Yvonne van Gennip NED 3 0 0 3
Matti Nykänen FIN 3 0 0 3
Tamara Tikhonova RUS
2 1 0 3
Vreni Schneider SUI 2 0 0 2
Tomas Gustafson SWE 2 0 0 2
Frank-Peter Roetsch GDR
2 0 0 2
Gunde Svan SWE 2 0 0 2
Alberto Tomba ITA 2 0 0 2
Valery Medvedtsev RUS
1 2 0 3
Anfisa Reztsova RUS
1 1 0 2
Christa Rothenburger-Luding GDR
1 1 0 2
Mikhail Devyatyarov RUS
1 1 0 2
Hippolyt Kempf SUI 1 1 0 2
Uwe-Jens Mey GDR
1 1 0 2
Aleksey Prokurorov RUS
1 1 0 2
Hubert Strolz AUT 1 1 0 2

All medalists at these Games