Sunday, March 2, 2014

Olympic Legacy

The Bubbies & Zaidas Blogging group found ourselves with a rare opportunity to enjoy each other's company and reflect last Monday.   It was the day after the closing Olympic Ceremonies in Sochi and so we spent some time chatting about the Olympics in Calgary in 1988 and other musings.   Here are our thoughts for your enjoyment.
We talked a lot about Western Spirit and trying to define what that was. The 1988 Calgary Olympics were the first games that didn't end up in a deficit, and that is attributed, in large part, to the many volunteers.   At that time Calgary had a real small town attitude, we would depend on each other to get things done. This attitude extended to our neighbors as well.   Okotoks opened their town to the Russian teams to practice.  Folks were fighting for space in Calgary to practice.   So the Russians went south, and Okotoks had a unique cultural exchange.

There was a sense that the Olympics were getting too big and too expensive and we wanted to show that you could do it on the cheap.   The buildings were meant to be used repeatedly, and they have proven to be. 

Here are some 1988 Olympics Observations from Manny.   "I was part of the Emergency Transport Office.   If athletes needed a ride somewhere or there was a problem, we were called.   I remember that in the evenings  Eddie the Eagle had nothing to do so he would come into the office.  He was aware that folks thought he was a joke and he used to day: "I am the best that England has to offer!".  He was a real character.

We used to pick up the athletes who had just competed  and bring them down to Electric Avenue.  For those too young to know what that was it was a strip of nightclubs on 11 ave SW.  It was the hotspot for nighttime activity.

Another experience I had was picking up the Swiss bobsled team.  They had arranged to have their bobsled painted once they arrived in Calgary, so I was to take them to a  Swiss fellow who had a paint shop in Bowness.  All of a sudden, one of the Swiss team starts taking off his clothes, his jacket, his shirt... 

I asked what are you doing?   

He had a slab of Swiss bacon strapped to his body to give to his fellow country man in thanks for painting the bobsled!"

Finally he shares:  I was at the opening and closing ceremonies for Calgary and we were all cheering so hard the stands were shaking! 

Bob tells us "My Olympic experience was slightly different.   The Olympic organizing committee advertised for locals to take in billets during the Olympics.   We had a couple from the US who expected us to wait on them had and foot!  I would say I was a volunteer driver, talked into it from our Billets from Philadelphia.    Because we were so generous our Olympic experience was my wife cooking and me driving around as a taxi driver.  In reality I didn't mind driving around as I got to see alot of the Olympics."

Bruce shared “I did a lot of weight lifting during the Olympics - 8 oz at a time”  He remembers it fondly but as a time of a lot of work and a lot of high security.   "During the Olympics I was responsible for the janitors at Telus.   Telus sent all of the janitors home because they were afraid that folks would sabotage the Olympics.   I hired a contractor to weld the man holes shut because they were afraid of sabotage.  After the Olympics we had to open them up!"

Sandi was a volunteer down at the Olympic plaza. Her job description was never very clear but she remembers it fondly.   She also shared that she was one of the pin collectors and she  still has an Olympic pin collection.

Irina was the only blogger on our team who has been to Sochi.   She tells us of a visit 30 years ago, when she was still a teacher:  "It is not a big city.  It is by the Black Sea.  The subtropics.   A resort town.    It was very expensive to go but on the rare occasion the government gave you a deal to go.   It is an all inclusive resort (like in Mexico).  I received papers from the government who gave me a deal.   It is rare for someone like a teacher to get one.  This was during the days of Communism.  From the Ukraine it was a 3 - 4 hour trip.   It was so much different than what I remember."

The final word will now go back to Bob who spent some time exploring the display at the Jewish Centre:

I was very impressed to see the display of Calgary ’88 Olympic Memorabilia at The Jewish Centre on Feb 24’14, and I did appreciate having the pleasure of holding the runners Olympic Flame for a photo op, but I was equally overwhelmed at the amount of wonderful work listed in a hand out pamphlet entitled “Sewing Seeds of Hope on 4Continents”. It indicated their work began in Sierra Leone, Africa in 2002. They provided sewing machines, materials, and a beginner’s sewing training program to 30 war widows, & to date they have trained 150 women. Some students have opened their own shops. 70% are sewing clothing for themselves & for their families. There are now sewing programs in Ukraine & Peru, and they are  presently constructing 2 additional centres in Ukraine. In each country they have developed children’s programs specifically to suite the needs of the area where they are working. These include teaching English, Vacation Bible School, outreach programs to prisons and orphanages, celebrating a Canadian Christmas, and in Novovlynsk in building an orphanage facility. 2 new centres are starting this year in Boma, the Congo, & Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Hats off to Sylvia Rempel, founder of Sun Ice Ltd. Clothing Co, 59 Discovery Ridge Point S.W. Calgary AB T3H 4R1. And what a wonderful legacy, - supporting women, men and children in underprivileged countries.

Now it's YOUR TURN.  Share your Olympic Memories in the comment section of our blog!!

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