Amazing feats by daredevil athletes in sports such as “big air” snowboarding, mass-start speedskating and oh-so-dangerous alpine skiing thrilled fans during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games in South Korea.
National pride was on display as Canadians won the most medals ever in both Olympic and Paralympic Games.
But Gladys Serafino says she probably had a more personal interest than most in watching those medal presentations –with a little bit of luck, the curatorial assistant at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in Calgary could very well be holding some of those medals in the weeks to come.
“It does go through the back of your mind,” she laughed. “You know, our athletes are incredibly generous in loaning us things.”
Now that the Games are over, medals, jerseys, hockey sticks, skates, Olympic torches and other memorabilia –as seen on TV– are starting to trickle in to be used to update exhibits at the museum tucked between the skating rinks, ski runs and bobsleigh tracks at Canada Olympic Park in west Calgary.
The hall still has the mandate it had when it opened in Toronto in 1955: to preserve and honour Canada’s sports heroes of the past and present. Its exhibits were placed in storage when it lost its physical home in Toronto in 2006 and a nationwide search resulted in the opening of the purpose-built Calgary building on July 1, 2011.
The list of sports greats who have won membership in the hall has grown since then from 60 to more than 600 sports.
The museum has over 100,000 artifacts but only 2,000 to 2,500 are on display at any one time, said Janice Smith, director of exhibits and programming.
The 40,000-square-foot facility contains 12 galleries with themes including Splash, dedicated to water sports; Bounce, ball sports; and Glide, all about various forms of skiing.
Hockey, the only gallery dedicated to a single sport, features a wall autographed by Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe on a visit a few years ago. It also has one of the first wooden sticks Gretzky ever endorsed –the name stamped on it is misspelled “Gretsky.”
The gallery dedicated to Olympic and Paralympic Games is expected to attract more attention than usual this summer, said Smith.
Even before the PyeongChang games began, a display had been erected highlighting five athletes going to the Olympics and four going to the Paralympic Games –two of the Olympians and three of the Paralympians went on to win medals.
The Olympic gallery includes exhibits commemorating the 30th anniversary of the 1988 Calgary Winter Games, whose legacy has made the region the top training and competition centre for elite winter sports in Canada.
On a recent visit, Grade 2 student Emma Lee, 8, donned white gloves to hold one of the museum’s donated Olympic torches from the 1988 Games. The metre-long torches resembling the Calgary Tower were used by volunteer runners to transport the eternal Olympic flame from Athens to Alberta.
“That would be pretty hard because it is so heavy,” Emma said. “It would be hard to keep the flame going,”
If a visit to the hall sparks a desire to experience its thrills in person, Canada Olympic Park awaits just outside.
During the summer months, guests can slide down a zipline from the top of the 90-metre Olympic ski jump tower reaching speeds of up to 140 km/h, or rumble down the sliding track at 80 km/h in a four-man summer bobsleigh.
They can also ride more than 25 kilometres of mountain bike trails on the ski hill, enjoy an 18-hole mini-golf course or strap on skates for a glide in one of the arenas in the ice complex.
The latest attraction is Free Fall, a leap from an eight-storey platform in a bungee-type harness. Or, if it’s just the view you’re looking for, you can also ride the ski hill chairlift.
If you go…
– Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in July and August. In other months, it is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday and on holiday Mondays.
– Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for youth, $10 for seniors and free for children under three. Family and group pricing is also available.
– For more information, go to the website sportshall.ca
– For information on other attractions, visit winsport.ca.