The Government of Canada allocated $400,000 of the $39.9-million budget to build the Olympic Oval to purchasing artwork. The artwork at the facility acknowledges the deep connections between artists and athletes, and the idea that sport and art are both fundamental forms of expression of the human spirit.
Olympic Oval Tradition of Excellence
The third level of the Olympic Oval is home to the Olympic Oval Tradition of Excellence. This gallery celebrates the successes of the Olympic Oval and the athletes and coaches who have trained and competed here. After months of gathering archives and information, it was unveiled at a ceremony during the 2003 ISU World Sprint Speed Skating Championships.
The Tradition of Excellence celebrates the successes of the Olympic Oval's four high performance sport programs; cycling, female hockey, long and short track speed skating. The display also acknowledges the dedicated staff and volunteers who have worked over the past 20 years to make the Olympic Oval a world class facility.
The Speed Skating Canada Hall of Fame
The Speed Skating Hall of Fame is Speed Skating Canada's permanent home for speed skating memorabilia and acknowledges many builders of the sport.
Brothers of the Wind (1925)
This bronze frieze by well-known Canadian artist Robert Tait McKenzie was completed in 1925 and purchased for the Oval for $75,000. A long-time supporter and spectator at the Olympic Games, McKenzie often participated as an exhibitor during Olympic competitions for fine arts. The Brothers of the Wind is one of McKenzie’s finest and largest works, and depicts eight speed skaters in competition. The sculpture is located in the main stairwell in the lobby of the Olympic Oval. Gold and diamond rings, engraved with the image of the Brothers of the Wind, are given to athletes who set world records in the building. The ring was conceived by Carol Boyd-Maybach (year?) as a unique, iconic gift from the ice technicians to the athletes in recognition of their world record achievements.
The Spire (1988)
Entering the Olympic Oval from the north side, visitors are greeted by The Spire, a large red sculpture created by Calgarian Charles Boyce. The piece is intended to depict a 'progression of human movement,' representing crawling, walking, running, jumping, and flying, and as a tie-in to the 1988 Olympics it is 19.88m high. The Spire is a somewhat controversial work, often confusing passers-by wondering about the artist’s intention and vision. In the early years of construction of the Oval, people thought it might be an extension of the duct work for the building, or part of the roof. It is now affectionately known, especially in the University of Calgary community, as “the paperclip”.
Le Patineur de Vitesse 84 (1987)
Le Patineur de Vitesse ’84, by Quebec sculptor Germain Bergeron, is located on the south patio of the Olympic Oval. The piece echoes the artist’s other stylistic sculptural work, and is made of recycled metal. It was created in honour of Canadian speed skater and four-time Olympian Gaétan Boucher, and reflects the high level of performance fostered at the Oval, as well as Gaétan’s achievement of four medals over two Olympics (two gold, one silver and one bronze).
The Athlete (1903)
The Athlete is one of two pieces (The Brothers of the Wind is the other) sculpted by Robert Tait McKenzie, and is located in the lobby of the Oval. The piece is a composite of average body measurements of 400 Harvard men, and eventually distilled into the proportions of the 50 strongest of these over a period of eight years.
Olympic Torch and Miners Lamp (1988)
The torch for the 1988 Winter Olympic Games is made of Canadian maple and aluminum, and mirrors the shape of the Calgary Tower. Pictograms of Olympic Winter sports are etched into the handle, and it is inscribed on the bottom with the Olympic motto, Citius Altius Fortius - faster, higher, stronger. The Miner’s Lamp accompanying the torch was used to transport and re-light the flame during the cross-Canada relay. The relay, with the theme "Share the Flame", was one of the longest in Olympic history - a total distance of about 18,000 kilometres.
Pagoglyphs (Marks on Ice) (1987)
Brian Baxter of Vancouver designed these two stained glass windows above each of the main entrances of he Oval. Made with a mixture of manufactured and hand blown glass, prisms and mirrors, the pieces create the effect of skate marks on ice. The windows were commissioned for $40,000
The Speed Skater (1984)
This bronze sculpture by John Weaver was part of a fundraising campaign in Calgary’s bid to host the 1988 Winter Olympics. The statue is one of only five sculptures in Weaver’s series designed to portray Olympic winter athletes and is currently on permanent display in lobby of the Oval. Weaver was the resident sculptor at Alberta’s provincial museum in the 1980s, and is most famous for creating the statue of Wayne Gretzky (1989) outside Rexall Place in Edmonton.
The Heroic Entrance (1987)
On the upper floor of the Olympic Oval the marmoleum tiles signal the entrance to the upper viewing deck. These tiles are a permanent site-specific installation by highly acclaimed (American-born) Toronto artist Barbara Astman. Astman has been commissioned for public art projects since the mid-80s, and this floor installation was one of her first public commissions in her career.