Olympic Fever

hidy-and-howdyI suppose it started for me when Calgary hosted the Winter Olympics in 1988.  There is something about having your home town play host to one of the greatest sporting events in history.  The atmosphere, the camaraderie, the excitement and of course, the national pride surpassed anything we had ever experienced before…and that even includes the Stampeders winning the Grey Cup or the Calgary Flames winning the Stanley Cup…although that 1989 Cup win for the Flames was pretty sweet 🙂

I was teaching preschool in 1988 and my daughter was only four years old.  The Olympic Flame came through our community and my husband and I got to run with the flame, our four year old holding my hand as we ran.  It is a memory I will always cherish.

My husband had been competing in two-men bobsled leading up to the Olympics.  Although his bobsled career was relatively short-lived, watching him go down the new bobsled track prior to the Olympics made me very proud of my would-be “Olympian”.

We had managed to get a couple of tickets to the Ice Dancing competition and riding the LRT (light rapid transit) into Calgary that day was an experience all in itself.  My daughter was in her stroller and a young man with a wide smile spoke to her while she waved and pointed at his pin-adorned lapel.  His accent was pronounced but I managed to discover from his broken English that he was one of the goalies for the West German hockey team.  He had spent the morning exploring the city and was now on his way back to the Olympic Village.  As we were about to step off the LRT to take the short walk to the Saddledome to cheer on the Canadian duo, Tracy Wilson and RobManley, Elizabeth McCall skate in the preliminary competition en route to their Bronze Medal win, our new German Goalie friend gallantly helped me negotiate the bulky stroller out of the train.  Then he quickly pulled off a pin from his lapel and gave it to me before he jumped back on the train and waved “good-bye”, his wide smile beaming at us as we waved back.  That gift of a lapel pin started my Olympic Pin collection I have to this day!  When Canada played the West Germans later that week in hockey, although my heart was with Team Canada, I cheered loudly whenever the German Goalie made a save.  Canada won 8 – 1, and I couldn’t help feeling a little sad for my goalie friend from Germany.

As I watched the opening ceremonies from Sochi last night, I immediately began reminiscing about our Olympic experiences in 1988.  My daughter hugging on Hidy and Howdy, the Calgary Olympic mascots, as they greeted us at the Saddledome that day.  Cheering on Eddie the Eagle, the British ski jumper who crashed more than sailed through the skies but became a “legend” Eddie the Eaglenonetheless, and the debut of the Jamaican Bobsled team who came in dead last in the four man event but came in first in the hearts of all Calgarians and the rest of the world.  Watching little Elizabeth Manley win silver in Figure Skating and cheering on the “Battle of the Brians” (Brian Boitano and Brian Orser) in the men’s competition made us all proud to witness history in the making.  It was a great time for all Calgarians.  It was a great time for all Canadians!

It was wonderful to see Calgarian, Hayley Wickenheiser be the flag bearer for Team Canada in Sochi yesterday.  She represents the legacy of fine athletes around the world who were inspired by the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988.  No doubt history will be made in Russia at these 2014 Games and youngsters will be inspired to compete in future Olympics.  It would be nice if everyone could just ignore all the controversies surrounding these games, and stop making threats to national security and just focus on the world’s athletes with their stories of strength and endurance and fair play.  Olympics should be a time of peace and world unity.  Wonder if we, as Nations, can put aside political and social differences just for a couple of weeks?

That’s worth cheering for!

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