Organizing Committee Calgary

  • Olympic City: Calgary
  • Country: Canada
  • Edition of the Games: 1988 Olympic Winter Games
Permanent since 1988
Local Volunteers

Description of the Project

The Organizing Committee Calgary is a volunteer-based organisation that dedicates itself to the bidding for, planning and hosting of Speed Skating Events in the State of Alberta.

The group was initially formed of volunteers that were heavily involved in the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary. These individuals were responsible for every aspect of the Speed Skating events during the Games. This included participating in fact finding missions across the world to establish best practices in the delivery of large-scale Speed Skating events and developing solutions of how best to apply these to the Olympic Oval, the purpose-built speed skating stadium constructed for the 1988 Games.

Over the course of the preparation and delivery of the Winter Olympic Games, a huge amount of technical knowledge and expertise was developed by the group. This knowledge has been carried forward and used to attract and deliver high quality Speed Skating events back to the Olympic Oval and to the State of Alberta on a yearly basis.

This has proved remarkably successful, with over 30 major speed skating events having being staged over the lifespan of the group. This has covered both national and international events including world cups, world championships and Olympic trials. The City of Calgary is now recognised as a centre of excellence for the sport while the Organizing Committee Calgary are now regarded as the leading experts globally in bidding for and hosting of major speed skating events.


Develop human capital and generate social cohesion

The more events that the Organizing Committee Calgary delivers, the more their specialist expertise and experience in hosting international skating grows and the more attractive it is for events to come to Calgary. This perpetual growth has seen the expansion of advanced volunteer programmes that allow citizens to also share in the development of this experience and expertise through regular interactions. In this way the OCC helps to support the personal and professional growth of local residents.

Promote the City by leveraging its affiliation with the Olympic Movement

The work done by the Organizing Committee Calgary has marked the City and more specifically the Olympic Oval as the world centre of excellence for international skating. This has boosted tourism and driven economic activity in the area, bringing athletes, fans and media from all over the world. It is also something that the residents of the city are immensely proud of.  The OCC – itself a product of legacy the Winter Olympic Games in 1988 – is delighted to be responsible for such a direct and positive contribution to the City and its residents.



The Committee holds an annual review meeting where the results for the past 12 months are assessed. This evaluation process is supported by satisfaction surveys of spectators and volunteers which is followed by event-specific debriefs after every tournament hosted. Based on these processes, strategies are continually being revised and there is a specific focus is placed on continuous improvement.


Key Challenges

Navigating the sports hierarchy

The Organizing Committee Calgary is unique in that it is not directly affiliated to any international or national sports body, nor is it an organ of the State or Federal Government. This puts it outside the traditional sporting hierarchy, particularly when it comes to bidding for and hosting events. This can create difficulties in establishing necessary channels of communications with bodies that are used to working with entities from the more traditional model of events hosting, namely cities, National Olympic Committees, National Federations or International Federations.

As some or all of these entities are always involved in the process of delivering speed skating events, building a mutually beneficial relationship from the outset is vital. Demonstrating the advantage of having an independent third party with a specific expertise is key and this has become easier over time as the Committee has built on its portfolio of successful events.


Managing staff turnover

The Organizing Committee Calgary has been functioning for approximately 3 decades. Of course, there is a natural level of turnover within leadership and management. There is a constant danger therefore that as the team ages and individuals begin to leave, that the experience and knowledge that makes the organisation unique leaves with them.

The fact that the organisation is run by volunteers makes this challenge even more profound. A variety of circumstances can lead to volunteers having to withdraw from commitments on very short notice. To combat this the Organizing Committee Calgary focuses considerable attention on human resources and succession planning.


Key Learnings & Recommendations

Select the right people

Having a team that is made up of volunteers makes it even more important to choose individuals that have complimentary skills and a genuine passion for what they do. The Organizing Committee Calgary adopts a strategic recruitment process that is designed to select volunteers whose own values are closely aligned with the vision of the organisation. This involves firstly identifying what inspires and motivates your current workforce, extracting these core drivers and applying these to potential team members. This process is made effective by ensuring that the current team have fulfilling roles that provide each member with a sense of purpose and fulfilment.


Plan for succession carefully

The key strength of the Organizing Committee Calgary is its specific expertise in the hosting of speed skating events. This body of knowledge has been built up over the decades, beginning with the 1988 Games and spanning many national and international tournaments. While this value of experience is invaluable, it is also intangible. As a result, careful succession planning is employed by the Committee to ensure that knowledge transfer between outgoing and incoming volunteers takes place. Replacements that are fully ready to step in will have been identified in advance and their capability and commitment to the role in question will have already been assessed.


More information

The full case is available in printable version on the members’ portal

In addition to the above description, the PDF version also gathers practical information including internal and external partners involved; finance and cost; use of the olympic brand; human resources and time; and contact details. 

The World Union of Olympic Cities’ team remains at your disposal for any further information and contact’s facilitation at 

Additional resources can be found through the following links: