CALGARY -- As someone who is always in search of the perfect pool, the best bicycle and the most sizzling sauna, I thought I'd be out of luck at the Winter Olympics.
They've put the press corps in prefabricated housing in a vacant lot on the outskirts of town -- some people are calling it the gulag -- and I was resigned to two weeks off from my routine at the National Capital YMCA. I figured I'd get my exercise walking to buses, strolling around the cavernous media center or hiking up a mountain.
Then I found Lindsay Park.
Actually, it's rather hard to overlook. It's about a 15-minute walk from the media center, and at first glance it looks like the world's largest indoor tennis bubble, with a spectacularly arched snow-white Teflon-treated fiberglass roof supported by a network of cables that encloses a 3 1/2-acre public playground.
Completed in 1983 at a cost of $28 million to the city of Calgary, Lindsay Park has two 50-meter swimming pools, a diving pool that includes a 10-meter platform, a 200-meter running track overlooking three gymnasiums, areas for pole vaulting, long and triple jumping and a cage to practice the shot and discus.
There are squash courts, badminton courts, basketball courts, volleyball courts, a full weight room and a room known as the combative area, for judo and karate.
I also happened upon a gym devoted to one of Canada's fastest growing sports -- floor hockey.
I watched a pick-up game, five on five and a goaltender on each side, with players wearing sweats, sneakers and hockey gloves and running up and down a hardwood floor flailing away at a day-glow orange ball with regulation hockey sticks. The goaltenders were in full gear and masks, the better to ward off slap shots aimed at their heads. Skate saves are replaced by Reebok saves.
As an old goaltender, I asked one player if the ball stung any worse than a puck. He pulled up his shirt to show a half-dozen purple welts. "Does that answer your question?" he asked.
I took a safer approach on an exercise bicycle, then a few laps in the pool, a dip in a Jacuzzi built for 20, and a hot shower.
I was not alone. The facility is open to all Calgarians at fairly modest fees. A single adult can use the facility for a year for $215 and a family membership goes for $425. There are world-class athletes in training, side by side with toddlers, teen-agers and visiting sportswriters.
The building also is used for other activities. Two days before the opening ceremonies, 4,000 visiting journalists were fed genuine Alberta beef there, and the other day workmen were setting up for a two-day exhibition of traditional Indian dancing, with bleachers for 1,500 spectators.
Still, it's generally a no-frills facility, with a cold-tile dressing room, lockers that cost 25 cents to rent and no free soap or towels.
"Try the French pastry," said the man at the snack bar. "It's the best you'll find in Calgary."
The perfect pool, and the perfect pastry, too. The YMCA was never like this.