The 2016 Rio Olympic Games gave sports enthusiasts plenty of answers. Could Michael Phelps continue to be unstoppable? Yes. Will Usain Bolt go down as the fastest man in history? Probably. Does Simone Biles deserve to be on every box of Wheaties? Yes. However, one question lingered for viewers around the world, and more importantly, the residents in Brazil: what will the Games mean for the future of the city and the country?
Finding this answer, of course, will take time. While the return on the investment for the summer of 2016 may not be calculated for many years, the results for another past host of Olympic greatness have proven to be one of the city’s powerful assets in the convention business. In Calgary, Heather Lundy, Acting General Manager at the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre, says that the infrastructure of the 1988 Winter Olympic Games has continued to help the city stand out as a place where international attendees can come together. “The Olympics really put Calgary on the map internationally,” Lundy says. “It was a highlight in the city’s history, and we use the success as a key selling point all the time in our conversations with convention and conference clients.”
More Than Sports
Winter sports are in Calgary’s DNA, but the venues aren’t confined to skiing, skating or any other activities for Olympians-in-training. For example, consider WinSport, a massive facility that can meet the needs of any business events organizer — from hosting intimate dinners to inviting attendees to complete a challenge course to turning up the volume with live entertainment for thousands of attendees. While WinSport’s roots may be in the city’s inaugural Olympic bid, the facility fits the needs of today’s experiences with a recent expansion that clocked in above $200 million. “Because these facilities were the legacy of the Olympics, they’ve been well-maintained, well-funded and well-utilized,” Lundy says.
Along with WinSport, the Olympics paved the way for the 150,000 square-foot Olympic Oval, an ideal venue for trade shows and exhibitions, and the Scotiabank Saddledome, home to the Calgary Flames and a venue that can easily accommodate any organization looking to unite a big audience for an unforgettable live performance. “The Olympic venues can be a real difference-maker for any kind of experience,” Lundy says. “From Board meetings to trade shows and international education conferences, the venues fit a diverse range of needs.”
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Another Major Infrastructure Expansion For International Attendees
The 1988 Games helped Calgary shine on an international stage, and since then, the city has continued to distinguish itself as a top-tier global gathering place. Now, its star is poised to grow even brighter with a $2 billion expansion project at Calgary International Airport (YYC). With 24 new gates to serve international and US destinations, the airport is set to double in size. The timing couldn’t be better, either. Why? Because Calgary may be on the path toward repeating its Olympic success. The city recently approved a $5 million study to determine if it should bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics.
“It’s in the study phase, but it’s looking very promising,” Lundy says. “We’ve already proven the community’s ability to host major international events, and our recent hotel boom is making the city even more prepared for an influx of attendees.”
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