Would the Olympic Oval be suitable for another Olympics?
Calgary’s Olympic Oval is known as the world’s fastest ice, attracting the most elite athletes and is home to numerous speed skating world records. Each year, the University of Calgary, operating partner of the facility, welcomes thousands of athletes, coaches and visitors for international speed skating competitions, including the ISU World Cup and World Championships.
Constructed for the 1988 Olympics, the Oval still maintains its status as a world-class facility and could host Olympic events tomorrow, if required. Built and designed by local architects and construction firms, the Olympic Oval was one of the world’s first covered speed skating ovals and has certainly stood the test of time.
The Oval operates as a training facility for Speed Skating Canada and the Canadian National Speed Skating team and is not only home to many recreational skaters, but also to track athletes, runners and a variety of sport groups. It’s accessibility to the community, including youth and students, contributes to its value within the city. In addition to the speed skating track, two Olympic sized rinks are located in the centre of the Oval and are used for competitive and recreational sports year-round. The Oval provides a first-rate facility for local Calgarians as well as visitors from around the globe.
Looking ahead to a potential 2026 Olympics and Paralympic Winter Games, the Oval is a prime venue but would require minor upgrades to ensure its continued legacy and viability for another thirty years, and beyond. The athlete facilities, including locker rooms, would require updating, along with additional exits and an elevator for the facility at large. The most impactful upgrade would be to the concrete slab and cooling lines beneath the ice. If Calgary were to host a 2026 Games, this would need to be replaced and could then be updated with more energy efficient and technologically advanced systems. New systems can regulate temperatures at varying rates across the ice. This means that the straight away, where initial speed is established, can be cooler and firmer, and the corners, where skaters need more traction, could be less cool allowing for skaters to grip the turns tightly and with more speed. The benefits of energy efficient technologies would be the reduced carbon footprint, as well as cost savings, for the facility’s operations.
The Olympic Oval has been a pillar in the Calgary community since its inception and stands true to its name nearly 30 years past its Olympic glory. Its use in a potential future Olympics would be advantageous due to its competitive ranking as a facility, the current condition of the venue and minimal updates required for a potential 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.