CALGARY - Frank King, one of the architects of the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988, has died at the age of 81.
King was the chief executive officer of Calgary's organizing committee. King and Bob Niven brought a Games to Calgary that changed the face of the city and helped make Canada a powerhouse in winter sport.
An avid runner who competed in Seniors Games, King died Wednesday of a heart attack while training at a downtown club, according to Niven.
King and Niven were both members of the Calgary Booster Club in 1978 when the club president asked if anyone was interested in bringing a Winter Olympics to the city.
"Frank and I just sort of smiled at one another and put up our hands and that was the beginning of it all," Niven told The Canadian Press on Thursday.
The Olympic Oval, the Saddledome, Canada Olympic Park and the Canmore Nordic Centre in Canmore, Alta., are still used for the purpose they were built 30 years after the 1988 Winter Games.
Endowment funds King and company set aside paid for future upkeep and upgrades of the venues, which continue to host regular World Cup and world championships in winter sport.
The '88 legacy is the foundation upon which Calgary is considering a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games.
Calgary has become a training hub for Canada's Olympians and Paralympians.
The host country won just five medals and no gold in 1988, but Canada won 29 medals, including 11 gold, at this year's Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
"Our medal count has gone up tremendously as a result of the facilities and programs that were put in place as a result of the '88 Games," Niven said.
Born in 1936 in Redcliff, Alta., King continued to work as senior vice-president of manufacturing for Turbo Resources while he chaired Calgary's bid committee.
"He was tremendous with people," said Niven, who was the CEO of the bid committee.
"He was very kind. He had a great sense of humour. He was a wonderful leader, but his focus was relationships. He was very, very good at them.
"That's probably, as much as anything, what contributed to Calgary winning the games. Frank built up trust in people."
Calgary was an oil town with a population of half a million people in 1978. A Canadian city had never hosted a Winter Olympics before.
A Calgary bid had to overcome the reputation of the money-losing 1976 Summer Games in Montreal.
But a bigger impediment to a successful Calgary bid was Canada joining a boycott of the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow.
King and Niven knew IOC votes from Soviet bloc countries would go against Calgary because of that when it came time to vote in Baden-Baden, West Germany in 1981.
"We tried to make it more an answer to what the IOC always wants," King says in the Telus documentary "Secret Calgary: Behind the Bid."
"They want the world to be able to have their children, and their families and whatnot grow up playing sports. We went to make sure every IOC member knew we had that problem solved."
Calgary beat out Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, and Falun, Switzerland, for the '88 games.
Calgary's Games were the first to run 16 days instead of 12, the first to pull in a large television contract that ultimately made the Games profitable, and set a new standard in volunteerism.
The official number of volunteers at the Calgary Games was 10,000, but Niven estimates more than twice that number donated their time to the event in some way.
"It's one of those things where it invades you," King says in the documentary. "You're standing there saying 'wow, this is such a meaningful thing for the world and here it is right in front of us.' We worked hard for this."
King was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 1988 and received the Olympic Order in Gold from the IOC that same year.
He served as a director for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.
"This is truly a very sad day. Frank was as good a man as there is," John Furlong, who led the Vancouver organizing committee, said in a statement. "A great Canadian, and a terrific friend and mentor.
"His vision and goodwill elevated the standard by which the world now measures the success of Olympic and Paralympic Games and their legacies.
"If Canada is a world leading winter sport nation today, then much of the credit is owed to Frank King who believed that the Calgary 88 Games were a beginning that others could then build on."
WinSport, formerly the Calgary Olympic Development Association of which King was the chair, continues as the caretaker of the '88 legacy.
"WinSport at Canada Olympic Park would not be here helping hundreds of thousands of Calgarians participate in sport every year if it were not for Frank's relentless effort to bring the Games to our city," WinSport said in a statement.
"Frank is an inspiration to all of us and he will not be forgotten. He was a generous, humble leader who always looked to ensure that everyone he worked with grew and prospered. His efforts and passion have left an indelible mark on the city of Calgary."
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley tweeted Thursday that "when Frank King brought the 88 Olympics to Calgary, he brought the world to Alberta and inspired generations of Canadian athletes. His many contributions to the country, our province and #yyc live on."
The Frank King Day Lodge sits at the foot of the ski slope at COP, where ski jumping and sliding sports were held in '88.
"He was so proud of the '88 Games and all the effort that everybody put into it," Niven said. "He was very proud of it and justifiably so."
King attended the University of Alberta, where he completed his degree in chemical engineering in 1958.
After the Calgary Games, he was president of Turbo Resources from 1992 to 1993 and president of Cambridge Environmental Systems from 1993 to 1996.
King is survived by wife Jeanette and three children. He is pre-deceased by a daughter, Diane, who died of cancer in 2003.