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Unlike its Montreal analogue, the Vélodrome Olympique, Calgary’s Olympic Oval was emphatically under-budget: the organizers of the 1988 Winter Games were ever mindful of the financial disaster of the 1976 event. Also constructed of architecturally expressive pre-cast concrete components, the rational symmetry of the Oval’s lattice contrast the structural inefficiency of its zoomorphic Montreal counterpart.
Calgary’s facility was the first of its type: previous Olympic speed skating events had been contested outdoors. As a result, the Oval quickly became known as the “World’s Fastest Ice,” and it remains the location of the largest number of International Skating Union world records: 30, as of March 2008. As with the Saddledome, the Oval was designed by the Calgary firm Graham McCourt Architects, this time with the Simpson Lester Goodrich Partnership providing the structural engineering.
Now part of the University of Calgary Faculty of Kinesiology, the Calgary Olympic Oval will remain Canada’s primary training facility for elite skaters, as the more recent Richmond Olympic Oval will not retain its 400-metre long track after the conclusion of the 2010 Winter Games.
– Jesse Jackson