The Olympic legacy

By Вen Li

As we prepare to wish our athletes well in the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, it is easy to forget the legacy that the Calgary 1988 Olympic Winter Games left us. The spirit of volunteerism, the pride in our accomplishments and the physical and human infrastructure we pass by every day without giving a second thought were made possible by great volunteer effort and have all enhanced the Calgary region.

We take for granted how far we have come since then. Women’s freestyle wrestler and University of Calgary alumna Christine Nordhagen-Vierling is able to go to the Olympics for the first time because of her training here. Paralympian Earle Connor who trained at the U of C running track brought new hope and research to amputees seeking prosthetic limbs. And the mere presence of Olympic-class facilities inspired and allowed several local gymnasts including the U of C’s Grand Golding and coach Tony Smith to go to Athens.

Some are right to bemoan that the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and the new facilities they bring to western Canada will draw top athletes and trainers to the new state of the art facilities in British Columbia and away from Calgary. Members of the athletic community accustomed to finding top-caliber coaches and facilities within the city limits will certainly have mixed feelings about enhancing Canada’s Olympic program, albeit somewhere else.

However, having the leading- edge training venue an hour’s flight away is not necessarily bad. World-class facilities and trainers at the Olympic Oval, the Saddledome, Nakiska, Canada Olympic Park and our own Kinesiology Complex have already helped the current and next generation of athletes to Olympic glory. Allowing aspiring athletes to access these almost 20-year-old facilities can only encourage more athleticism and excellence of the kind found in the dozen athletes and trainers the U of C is sending to Greece this year. It would be selfish to deny Vancouver those same opportunities to enhance athletic achievement when we have benefited so much from them.

Besides this, when James Con-nolly (United States-athletics), Spiridon Louis (Greece-athletics) and Alfred Hajos (Hungary-swimming) won their gold medals in the 1896 Athens Olympics, the games were not about who had the latest in technology, best training facilities or the most sponsorship. Athletes competed against each other and not the technological edge provided by the latest science or skin-suit. Connolly hitchhiked across the Atlantic and Europe to even get to Athens, Louis’ marathon victory was only possible because fellow villagers made him running shoes, and Hajos trained in whatever water was available before winning the 1,200 m by swimming ashore from the Bay of Zea.

The games were not to be won by athletes with the best external equipment, but by those who exhibit the original spirit of athleticism and internal fortitude. That is something that cannot be lost to Vancouver’s success.

Вen Li


Leave a comment