On the very last day of the season, I decided to go skating at the Olympic Oval of Calgary. Spring was in the air, and I saw several people running in shorts. Located in the University Campus, the ice rink is surprisingly small from the outside. As I was early anyway, I decided to have a look around. First, I came across the Spire, a red metal sculpture some fifty metres outside the main entrance. It symbolizes the progress of human movement: from crawling, walking, to running and flying. Right next to it, I found the Olympic Cauldron, where the Olympic Flame was lit at the opening of the Calgary Olympics in February 1988. From here, I explored the inside of the building. On the first floor, "Marks on Ice", a fine piece of art in several windows of the building. There is also a small exhibition with the history of Canadian speed skating. From here, a short walk took me to the Olympic Oval proper.
Walking up to see the ice of the famous ice rink was exciting. So here it was that hundreds of world records were broken from 1988. For a long time, until Salt Lake City opened for the 2002 Olympics, Calgary was the fastest ice rink on the planet. The combination of a covered speed skating oval and the high altitude (a little over 1,000 metres) ensured Calgary an instant advantage over other covered rinks like Thialf, Heerenveen which was the first covered rink. As I could see in one corner of the building, though, Calgary had to cede the title of Fastest Ice on Earth to Salt Lake with its higher altitude. A panel with all world records, with the symbol of Calgary Olympic Oval added to times skated here, showed that only one world record for men was skated in Calgary. Before going on the ice, I had a look outside the south entrance, where a red metal sculpture representing Gaetan Boucher, one of Canada's successful skaters, stands in starting position. As a nice feature, the three words of the Olympic motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius, are engraved in the blades of the skates.
It was time to buy a ticket and skate. Instead of an entrance fee, I paid a donation as a fundraiser was going on to raise money for an Albertan boy who has a rare sensitivity to any light. The ice can only be reached after walking under the ice through a tunnel. I quickly put my skates on, and felt thrilled to step on the fast ice of Calgary. I quickly noticed that I was one of the very few to skate on speed skates, as almost everyone was using hockey skates instead. Moreover, there appeared to be very few rules: kids were skating slowly in the inner lane, people were swirling from left to right, or even skating the wrong direction. After trying to skate fast for a couple of laps, I gave up as it was almost impossible, and dangerous, to really skate. Instead, I met a compatriot in one of the very few other skaters on speed skates, and had a nice skate with him. At the end of my stay, as most of the other skaters had gone, I was finally able to skate freely - but the ice condition had seriously deteriorated after two hours. It was still an exhilarating feeling to be skating on the famous Olympic Oval of Calgary. When I left, I was feeling very satisfied. It was a nice end to a winter with lots of skating.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Calgary Olympic Oval (Canada). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Calgary Olympic Oval.
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