Although the Winter Olympics in Calgary begin in just 2 1/2 months, tickets to many events and accommodations in or near the city are still available, say Canadian Olympic and tourism officials. However, at this late date tickets and hotel space are limited, and some of the biggest events, such as the closing ceremony, long have been sold out.
American travelers planning a last-minute trip have at least two basic sources for Olympic tickets and room reservations:
They can apply through the Olympic Ticket Office and the Olympic Housing Bureau, which have been taking applications on a first-come, first-served basis for many months. Tickets to some of the most popular events, such as figure skating, speed skating and the hockey finals, sold out long ago, and the most convenient accommodations have been taken. However, about 500,000 tickets (out of a total of almost 2 million) were still unsold earlier this month, with plenty of availability for most outdoor events, such as alpine and nordic skiing.
Or travelers can buy a package that includes tickets and lodging offered by at least one large American tour organizer, Olson-Travelworld of Los Angeles, and a Canadian tour organizer, Dash Tours of Regina, Saskatchewan. Dash says it still has one-week packages that include accommodations in centrally located hotels and tickets to otherwise sold-out events. As of mid-November, it also had about 100 hard-to-get tickets to the gala Olympic opening ceremony, with its lighting of the Olympic flame and the parade of athletes. These tickets are being offered only as an option to package purchasers.
A third possibility, of course, is to try to book accommodations independently. But with more than 100,000 visitors expected to attend the Olympics each day -- and overnight accommodations for about 30,000 -- officials warn that finding a place to stay on your own is, at best, chancy. They would prefer you stay away unless you have confirmed reservations.
The XV Olympic Winter Games get underway Saturday, Feb. 13, and continue through Sunday, Feb. 28 in Calgary, a large (population 625,000) and cosmopolitan city just east of the Rocky Mountains. Famous for the annual Calgary Stampede in July, a major rodeo and frontier festival celebrating its Old West heritage, the city has chosen during the Olympics to highlight its cultural sophistication with a major arts festival, running from Jan. 23 through Feb. 28.
No, the city won't completely ignore its heritage. A daily Calgary Stampede Rodeo is scheduled the last week of the Olympics, pitting U.S. and Canadian cowboys against one another in the Stampede Corral. But most of the festival highlights the artists and artworks of Canada. The festival gets going, for example, with a gala concert featuring a new composition, "Olympic Jazz Suite," written and performed by Canadian jazz musician Oscar Peterson.
Also on the arts program for the Olympics are ballet, symphony and chamber concerts, a folk festival, opera, theater, a film festival, and a writers' festival and book fair. More than 600 rare Indian and Inuit pieces, such as an elaborately beaded parka, have been collected from 90 museums and private lenders and will be displayed at Calgary's Glenbow Museum in an exhibit called "The Spirit Sings."
To this arts and entertainment mix will be added what is billed as the first-ever Olympic International Snow Sculpting Competition. Teams from 25 countries have been invited to carve sculptures from 10-ton blocks of snow at Prince's Island Park in Calgary. At Canmore, the site of the nordic events west of Calgary, there will be an ice-sculpting contest with teams from at least a dozen countries.
And throughout the Olympics, the performing and visual artists of Calgary and its neighboring communities will stage Wintershow '88, described as a "festival of lights, sights and sounds." It features musical performances on Calgary's streets and art exhibitions lining indoor walkways.
Tickets are required for many of the performances of the Olympic Arts Festival, including the rodeo, although others are free.
It is important that travelers planning a trip to the Olympics be aware that the Games are being held at five major sites, two of which are about an hour's ride west of Calgary. If you have the option, you may want to choose accommodations close to the event that most interests you.
Competition will be held in 10 official Olympic events: ice hockey, figure skating, ski jumping, nordic combined (ski jumping and cross-country racing), bobsledding, luge (a small sled for one or two people), alpine (downhill) skiing, biathlon (cross-country skiing and target shooting), nordic (cross-country) skiing and speed skating.
Demonstration sports, which are not official competitions, are curling (a sort of ice bowling), freestyle (acrobatic) skiing and short track speed skating. There also will be two exhibition events for blind cross-country skiers and disabled downhill skiers.
The competition sites are:
University of Calgary: Located on the northwest edge of the city, the campus is the site of the Olympic Village, with accommodations for 2,000 athletes. Also on campus is the huge new Olympic Speed Skating Oval, described as the world's first fully enclosed Olympic speed skating facility. Seating 4,000, it is the site of most speed skating events. Short track speed skating will be held at the university's Father David Bauer Arena, named for the coach of Canada's first national hockey team. McMahon Stadium, the 50,000-seat open-air football stadium, has been renovated and will hold the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies.
Olympic Saddledome: Near downtown, this 17,000-seat area with its distinctive saddle-shaped roof is normally the home of the city's hockey team, the Calgary Flames. During the Olympics, it will play host to the hockey and figure-skating competitions, as will the adjacent 6,400-seat Stampede Corral.
Canada Olympic Park: On the western outskirts of Calgary alongside the Trans-Canada Highway, the large park, an established ski area, is the site for ski jumping, bobsled, nordic and luge competitions and the disabled skiing exhibition. Spectators can watch from terraces.
Nakiska at Mount Allan: About a 50-minute drive west of the city on the eastern slope of the Rockies, Nakiska is a new ski resort that opened last winter. It will play host to the downhill and freestyle skiing events. "Nakiska" is a Cree Indian word meaning "to meet."
Canmore Nordic Centre: Also about 55 minutes west of Calgary on the edge of Banff National Park, Canmore is the site of cross-country skiing and biathlon competitions. A second Olympic Village has been established there.
An Olympic Plaza has been constructed in downtown Calgary, adjacent to city hall and Olympic headquarters, as the ceremonial center for the presentation of Olympic medals.
To avoid traffic jams at the various sites, Calgary is making a big effort to keep visitors out of their cars.
The first two sites, the university and the Saddledome, are linked to downtown by the city's new above-ground Light Rail Transit system. The university is about a 20-minute ride; the Saddledome, about five minutes. Spectators who have a ticket to an event get free transportation on the day it is held.
Regular Calgary Transit buses and shuttle buses will run from downtown and other locations to Canada Olympic Park. Parking will not be permitted at Olympic Park. It is about a 20-minute ride from downtown.
Shuttle buses also will run from downtown to Nakiska and Canmore. A large parking lot has been established on the Trans-Canada Highway near both sites, and shuttle buses will serve them from the parking lot.
If the thought of the crowds seems daunting, Calgary officials point out that the city is accustomed to handling the expected 100,000 visitors a day, since that is about the same number who show up daily for the Calgary Stampede.
For Olympic and arts festival tickets and accommodations, consider one of these options:
Olympic Games tickets: The Olympic Ticket Office holds about half a million unsold tickets for preliminary and final competition in many events, among them cross country, biathlon and nordic.
However, it no longer has tickets for opening and closing ceremonies, figure skating, speed skating, short track skating or any hockey match in which the U.S. team plays. Ticket prices range from about $15 to $23 U.S. or $20 to $30 in Canadian currency. For an order form, contact: Olympic Tickets, P.O. Box 1988, Station M, Calgary, Alberta T2P 4E7, Canada, 1-403-270-6088.
In the weeks just before the Games begin, unsold tickets may be available by phone order.
Olympic Arts Festival tickets: You can ask for a festival order form from the same office that handles Olympic tickets. Phone orders are taken for tickets (VISA credit cards only) at 1-403-230-4488. On the day of performance, any remaining tickets will be available at the performance site one hour before curtain time. Ticket prices range from $5 to $50 Canadian per seat, depending on the event.
Accommodations: When the Olympic Ticket Office sends out confirmation of your ticket order, it will include a housing application form. Or you can contact the Olympic Housing Bureau directly at P.O. Box 4600, Station C, Calgary, Alberta T2T 5W1, Canada, 1-403-262-6630.
Initially, the bureau offered four types of accommodations: hotel/motel rooms in Calgary; hotel/motel rooms within 20 to 180 miles of Calgary; rooms in private homes; and rental of entire homes. Currently space is available only in two categories -- hotel/motel rooms outside Calgary and rental homes, which must be taken for a minimum of seven days.
The price for a home begins at about $1,900 U.S. a week. Hotels and motels away from Calgary begin at about $30 U.S. a night for two.
Packages: Travelers who purchase complete packages may be able to get tickets and lodging no longer available from the official ticket and housing offices.
David Ash, manager of Dash Tours of Regina, said his packages orginally were to be sold to Canadians but they seem "to be waiting to buy." So he has opened them to Americans. Much of his remaining inventory is in one-week packages for the first eight days or the final eight days of the Games. At mid-month, he still had tickets for some ice-skating events and U.S. hockey competition.
A one-week package includes eight nights in a Calgary hotel, hotel transfers from the Calgary airport, tickets to 12 Olympic events and transportation to them. These packages are about $1,200 to $1,500 U.S. per person (double occupancy). Tickets for the opening ceremony, if still available, are another $69 U.S. per person.
Ash also is offering four-night bed-and-breakfast packages. They include four nights in a private Calgary residence, four breakfasts, one Olympic ticket per day and transportation to the event. The price is about $109 U.S. a day per person (double occupancy).
For reservations: Dash Tours, 199 Leonard St. North, Regina Saskatchewan S4N 5X5, Canada, 1-306-721-2222 or 1-800-667-8088.
Olson-Travelworld of Los Angeles, designated by Canadian Olympic officials to handle package sales in the United States, put together six programs lasting from six to 18 days. Many of the programs have been filled, but some space remains, according to a spokeswoman. At the moment, Olson-Travelworld is taking only written requests for reservations. Packages include one daily ticket to an Olympic event, hotel accommodations, breakfasts, transfers from the airport and to Olympic sites. A six-day package is about $1,020 U.S. per person (double occupancy). An 18-day package is $2,475 U.S. per person.
For an application form: Olson-Travelworld, P.O. Box 92734, Los Angeles, Calif. 90009, 1-213-670-7100 or 1-800-421-2255. Or see a travel agent.
Getting there: As might be expected, seats on flights to and from Calgary during the Olympics are filling up fast, and travelers may have difficulty finding space on the days they prefer. You may have to take an unusual routing -- for example, through Atlanta and Salt Lake City with two changes of plane, an option on Delta.
United also serves Calgary from Washington, via Chicago or Denver. Air Canada flies from New York City. A possibility is to fly to Montreal or Toronto, connecting with a Canadian Airlines International flight into Calgary.
Earlier this month, United was reporting only a limited number of seats on most flights from Washington via Chicago to Calgary and returning during the Olympic period. The lowest round-trip fare quoted was $567 U.S.
Dash and Olson-Travelworld can help with flight reservations for travelers who buy their packages. Otherwise, consider consulting a travel agent.
For tourist information:
The city of Calgary: Calgary Tourist and Convention Bureau, 237 Eighth Ave. SE, Calgary, Alberta, T2G 0K8, 1-403-263-8510.
The province of Alberta: Travel Alberta, 1-800-661-8888.