Olympic History: Looking at the 1988 Winter Olympics

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Editor’s note: With the Winter Games now under way in Vancouver, British Columbia, the Steamboat Today has partnered with the Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum on a series of articles that reflect on past Winter Olympic Games, beginning with the first Winter Games in 1924. This is the eighth installment in that series.

Calgary, Alberta, won the 1988 Winter Olympic bid. The games were held Feb. 13 to Feb. 28 and featured 46 events in six sports. Other contenders for the host city were Falun, Sweden, and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. Fifty-seven countries arrived with 1,423 athletes to compete.

This was the last year that the Winter Paralympics and Winter Olympics were held in separate cities.

ABC paid a record $398 million for broadcast rights, while the Canadian CTV channel paid $45 million for domestic rights.

The year marked the first time the Winter Olympics were smoke-free and when athletes could sit in stands next to the spectators.

Calgary’s mascots were Hidy and Howdy, male and female polar bears. The torch relay was the longest one yet, traveling through all 10 provinces and both territories (Nunavut was not established at the time), and going beyond the Arctic Circle for the first time. Concern was raised about the “Chinook winds,” which are periods when the weather becomes unseasonably mild. Owing to these warm winds, the bobsled run had to be redone because sand blew on the track.

A number of new events were added, including the super-G slalom, the Alpine combined, and team events in Nordic combined and ski jumping. The Nordic combined event had been absent since 1948.

The U.S. finished ninth in the medal tally, with two gold, one silver and three bronze. All six medals were won in skating events. Brian Boitano was awarded gold in the men’s singles figure skate, and Debi Thomas won bronze in the ladies single figure skate event. In the pair figure skate event, Peter Oppegard and Jill Watson received bronze medals. Eric Flaim won silver in the men’s 1,500-meter speed skate, and Bonnie Blair earned gold in the women’s 500-meter and bronze in the 1,000-meter speed skate races.

Local Olympians

Todd Wilson, a member of the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team for nine years, was born in Denver. He competed at the World Championships in 1985 and 1987 and in the 1988 Winter Olympics, where he placed 40th in the individual Nordic combined and 10th in the team Nordic combined, and finished 39th in the individual Nordic combined at the 1992 Winter Games. After attending Colorado Mountain College, Wilson became a ski coach in Steamboat Springs, and in 2000 became the Nordic director for Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

A native of Boulder, Rick Mewborn was named to the 1988 U.S. Olympic Ski Team. He began ski jumping near Steamboat Springs on Howelsen Hill. While jumping, Mewborn earned several titles, including 1986 U.S. champion on the normal hill, 1987 U.S. champion on the large hill, and the Canadian national champion. At the 1988 Winter Olympics, he placed 54th in the normal hill event. Today, Mewborn is a resident of Steamboat, where he runs an excavation company and still returns to Howelsen Hill to watch his children ski.

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