STAMFORD, Conn. – On the first night of The Winter Olympics, NBCSN presents Calgary ’88, a look back at the men’s and ladies figure skating competition at the 1988 Winter Olympics. The 60-minute documentary, voiced by iconic actor and acclaimed author Rob Lowe, debuts Thursday, Feb. 8, at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, one hour before the first night of primetime coverage of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games begins on NBC.
Billed as “The Battle of the Brians,” American Brian Boitano and Canadian Brian Orser squared off for gold in the culmination of a decade’s long rivalry. Boitano had won the World Championship in 1986, and Orser had taken it from him in 1987. A host nation desperate for a gold medal, Canada pinned its hopes on Orser. He was the flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony and the focus of intense media coverage leading up to the Games. Well versed in the dynamics of a judged sport, Boitano believed that the cards were stacked against him and nothing short of perfection would land him at the top of the podium. Separated by the thinnest of margins throughout the compulsories and the short program, the long program provided the men with a stage for both their athletic greatness and their profound sportsmanship.
On the women’s side, U.S. superstar Debi Thomas took on East German rival Katarina Witt, both performing their long programs to music from the opera Carmen. As the defending Olympic champion, Witt was under intense pressure from her East German government to retire from international skating. A rare celebrity and de facto global ambassador for the Eastern Bloc community, Witt made a deal that if she won gold, her government would allow her to continue to travel and perform in skating shows. Stanford pre-med student and former world champion, Debi Thomas, just wanted to nail a perfect program. But tension with her coach and a budding romance were competing for her focus. In keeping with the operatic tradition, “The Night of the Carmens” was filled with drama.
The powerful, attention-grabbing events of the 1988 Calgary Olympic Winter Games catapulted the popularity of figure skating. Throughout the remainder of the 1980’s and ’90’s, ice skating shows attracted packed houses and booming television ratings, influencing significant changes in figure skating competition and scoring.
For a preview of Calgary ‘88, click here.