Host City: Calgary, Canada
Date Started: February 14, 1988
Date Finished: February 14, 1988
Participants: 230 (147 men and 83 women) from 36 countries
Youngest Participant: Mihaela Cârstoi (17 years, 358 days)
Oldest Participant: Patrick Hasler (40 years, 117 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 3 athletes with 3 medals
Most Medals (Country): Soviet Union (13 medals)
The 1988 cross-country events were held at Canmore Nordic Centre, a specially constructed venue for the 1988 Calgary Olympics. The centre is located 105 km (65 miles) west of Calgary, and was later declared an Alberta Provincial Park. The centre has areas for cross-country skiing, mountain biking, and hiking.
The basic Olympic program was unchanged in 1988 with four events for men, as had been the case since 1956, and four events for women, as in 1984, when a third individual race was added. But there was a slight change. In the late 1970s, American Bill Koch had pioneered the skating technique of cross-country. There had been an outcry from the traditionalists in the sport, but eventually the technique became very popular and was found to be faster than the classical in-line style. However, the governing body of the sport wished to maintain races in the classical style so beginning in 1988 at the Winter Olympics, the races have been designated as either freestyle (allowing skating technique), or classical. In 1988 the two shorter races (15 and 30 km for men, 5 and 10 km for women) were designated as classical races, while the longest race (20 km for women and 50 km for men) was a freestyle race. This would continue to be true in 1992 but in 1994, the FIS began the practice of keeping the shortest distance classical, while alternating the longer non-pursuit distances between classical and freestyle from one Olympics to the next. Relay skiers were required to start in the classical style, for the first 500 metres, to avoid ski congestion at the start, but could later switch to the skating technique.
No skier dominated the cross-country events at Canmore, but three skiers won three medals – Marjo Matikainen, Vladimir Smirnov, and Tamara Tikhonova, with only Tikhonova winning two gold medals – in the 20 km and relay.