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On Time and Under Budget: A Winter Olympics Success Story

March 16, 1987|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

In Western Canada's first three bids for the Winter Games--1964, '68 and '72, organizers proposed one of North America's most popular ski resorts, Banff, which is 75 miles west of Calgary.

The International Olympic Committee objected for environmental reasons. Banff is located in a national park.

When Calgary won the bid for the 1988 Games in 1981, the organizers proposed another area, Mt. Sparrow Hawk.

Local skiers claimed the mountain was unsafe because it was too steep. But the organizers persisted until the weather gauges they installed on the mountain were destroyed in an avalanche.

It was on to Nakiska, about 60 miles southwest of Calgary. It is adjacent to Kananaskis Provincial Park, where German prisoners were held during World War II.

Nakiska was a politically expedient site because the Alberta government already had invested $5 million in building roads to the area and installing power lines.

Government officials believed private investors would be attracted to the area and build resorts. When that didn't happen, the government proceeded with Nakiska at a cost of $25.3 million.

Private investors were skeptical about Mt. Allan as a ski resort because of its reputation as a place where it seldom snows.

The reputation was confirmed in February of 1986, when Nor-Am races scheduled for Mt. Allan were postponed because there was more mud than snow on the course. There was talk of finding a new site.

That was the recommendation of Serg Lang, the founder of the World Cup ski circuit, who called the men's downhill course "Mickey Mouse."

In fact, Lang had never seen the mountain. He since has been ejected from the World Cup ski committee.

When the Nor-Am races were finally held last December, with the aide of $5.5 million in snow-making equipment that covers 75% of the downhill course, the skiers approved.

"Mt. Allan is now on its way to having one of the top downhill courses existing today," said Switzerland's Marc Hodler, president of the international ski federation, who suggested $150,000 in cosmetic changes.

Hodler might have spoken too soon. Part of the women's World Cup downhill competition this month had to be canceled because Chinook winds raised the temperature to 70 degrees and melted the snow.

The skiers began referring to the mountain as "Mt. Mushmore."

When the organizers finally got the snow-making machines to work--they were frozen earlier in the week--they discovered they didn't know how to work the snow-making machines.

The organizers promised better results last weekend, when the men's World Cup downhill was scheduled for Mt. Allan.

In a concession to environmentalists, the highest points of the mountain will be used no more than once a year for skiing so as not to disturb a herd of 300 bighorn sheep.

Canmore Nordic Centre--Located 62 miles west of Calgary at the foot of Three Sisters Mountain, the area for Nordic competition--biathlon, cross country skiing and skiing portion of the Nordic combined--is considered one of the world's most challenging.

Built by the Alberta government for $15.4 million, $1.1 million under budget, the centre is located outside Canmore, a former coal-mining village named after the Scottish king who defeated Macbeth.

McMahon Stadium--Home to the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League, the stadium will be the site of the opening and closing ceremonies.

It was built in 1960, but the Alberta government and OCO '88 recently paid $15.8 million to expand the stadium from 36,000 to 50,000 seats.

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