Twenty-two years before Canadians became enamoured with the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, Ralph Klein was at the centre of the first Winter Games to be hosted in this country.
After being elected Mayor of Calgary on October 15, 1980, Klein became an instrumental figure in the city’s bid to host the 1988 Olympic Winter Games. He went on to serve on the Executive Committee of the organizing committee, OCO’88.
The Calgary Games had an incredible sense of community, in large part due to Klein. Inspired by watching Gaétan Boucher receive one of his 1984 Olympic gold medals in a central square in Sarajevo. Klein thought that spectators who couldn’t get into a competition venue should have a chance to witness a medal ceremony. The Olympic Plaza with nightly medal ceremonies, now a standard at the Winter Games, was born in Calgary.
First as Mayor and then as the 12th Premier of Alberta for 14 years from 1992 to 2006, Klein saw Calgary become the heart of winter sport in Canada. The Olympic legacy lives on in facilities such as the Olympic Oval and Canada Olympic Park, both of which were key to Canada’s record success at Vancouver 2010 and the country’s current status as a leading winter sports nation.
Klein passed away March 29, 2013 at age 70.