Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hidy and Howdy: the Spirit of the Winter Games Lives on 22 Years Later

Until recently, the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver has seemed like an abstraction to me. Sure, I bought some Vancouver 2010 mittens for my kids, and my girlfriend gave me some neat post it notes and a great pin. My ambivalent feelings changed to true excitement and anticipation on January 19th, when my husband and I took our children to the Olympic Flame Relay celebration in our city. Both of my children were handed a bright red flag to wave around and there was lots to see. A huge stage was set up with huge televisions on each side, so the view was great from where we were standing. My children were excited by the performance artist who created a painting on the spot that will hang in City Hall, and sang along with some of the musicians. We enjoyed the crisp evening air, the music and the crowds of families, children, teenagers, seniors dressed in volunteer gear from LAST Olympics. Around here, we all know that means the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta held February 13 - 28, 1988.

As I stood there with one child or the other in my arms, I couldn't help but reflect back to the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988. In January 1988, I started my first term as a university student - it is sometimes hard to believe it was 22 years ago. Wow! Twenty-two years ago I marveled about being on campus, about taking courses and writing countless essays, about spending hours in the library, about being a part of an active learning community. I drank countless delicious coffees from the coffee place that is kinda still operating in Mac Hall. I wish we still had the giant cookies on campus that the old food services used to make - these were oatmeal type cookies full of multigrain stuff and dipped half in chocolate; one of these with a large coffee was heaven! I used to run in the Oval back then, so I could afford one of these bad boys each day and still fit in my jeans. There are days when I still feel like a newbie on campus - usually at the start of every semester, or when I have had a few too many coffees in one day!

Back when I started university in Winter 1988, I was just about finished paying off my first car, and figured I should get into some student debt before buying a home. ;-) Hah! Tuition for my first semester was around $1100 - a bargain by today's tuition hit. I remember enrolling in four classes that were required for admission to the business school: math, math, economics and english. I was excited to open my brand new textbooks and course outlines (this feeling never changed, which probably explains why I eventually became a professor...). Once a week, I would have lunch with my grandfather who was very interested in hearing all about my experiences as a university student.

As a first term university student, it was pretty darn exciting to have the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. I rode the C-Train to campus most days, and it passed right by Olympic Plaza near city hall. From campus you could see the new Ski Jumps, bobsled tracks and luge runs at Paskapoo, I mean Canada Olympic Park. The University of Calgary had a brand new Olympic Oval and several new residences in the athlete's village that would eventually become student housing. One could take a five minute walk from campus to McMahon Stadium where the opening and closing ceremonies were held. Along with my parents and siblings, I watched two hockey games and enjoyed nachos and hot dogs at the still fairly brand new Olympic Saddledome -- since renamed after some petroleum company. The campus was teeming with people from all over the world - after all, athletes and media and coaches from 57 countries were in Calgary for the Games.

I remember wearing a spring weight jacket to campus that February and the media panic about "no snow" and the chinooks - I also remember getting hit by a typical Calgary deep freeze later that February. Campus rumors abounded about sightings of Katerina Witt or Elizabeth Manley practicing their figure skating routines on Oval ice. Everybody seemed to be wearing those corny volunteer snow suits & touques designed by Sun Ice. The new students' union building had 10 fast food outlets and a huge bookstore - a big improvement over old crappy Mac Hall. In the evenings, you could see the Olympic Flame atop the Calgary Tower from all over the city.

So, it was with no small emotion that my family and I welcomed the Olympic Flame into our city in January 2010. My husband and I hoisted a child each up onto our backs or shoulders so that they could see Airdrie's torch bearer and the Olympic Flame. All four of us sang along with the anthem and the songs. Later, we were able to snap a photo of our children with the Olympic Torch that will stay in our city on display. We watched the fireworks from the van as we drove home to get our children tucked into bed. The emotion and reflection caused by this event took me by surprise and filled me with excitement about the upcoming Vancouver Games, and gave me a cherished opportunity to reflect back on my beginnings as a university student 22 years ago the Winter that the Olympics came to Calgary.

1 comment:

Hank said...

Being around the Olympics twice in a lifetime is an unusual treat, Calgarians have done well.