Host City: Calgary, Canada
Venue(s): Canada Olympic Park, Calgary
Date Started: February 20, 1988
Date Finished: February 21, 1988
Format: Four runs, total time determined placement.
Although the 1987 World Championships had seen Swiss success on home ice in St. Moritz it was East Germany and particularly defending Olympic champion Wolfgang Hoppe who entered the Games as a clear favourite. Hoppe did in fact lead after the first run but his hopes of retaining the title were ruined in the controversial second run. Seeding of the top fifteen crews had not yet been introduced at the Olympics and by the time East Germany I competed the track was in less than perfect condition. Some of the top crews, including the GDR and the half way leaders from the Soviet Union filed a protest and asked for the results of the first day to be set aside. Their arguments centered on the fact that strong winds had blown dust and dirt onto the track and had left the track in a condition which was unfair to later runners. Hoppe had a strong case to say that the time he lost on the difficult second run had a material effect on the result as he dropped a second and a quarter on that run to the Soviet gold medallists. The Soviets won the title only by three quarters of a second. Hoppe was also critical of the novice crews that littered the event and complained that the damage to the track caused by inexperienced drivers had also had an effect on the performance of other teams.
The winner of the Soviet Union’s one and only Olympic bobsleigh title, Jānis Ķipurs, was a Latvian whose bob was painted in Latvian national colours. Four years later he would carry the Latvian flag in the opening ceremony in Albertville. A record number of 41 teams from 23 countries slid down the Calgary track with a number of unlikely countries fielding sleds. Oceanian representation came from Australia and New Zealand and the first teams appeared from the Caribbean. Mexico’s two sled contingent was populated by a family of four brothers whilst Prince Albert of Monaco piloted his nation’s first entry. The US Virgin Islands number one bob were the last of the thirty-eight finishers but it is worth noting that their team consisted of fifty-year-old John Reeve and John Foster who turned fifty a week after the Games ended.
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