Story and photos by Nel Lampe
The 2010 Winter Olympic Games are in Vancouver, Canada, Feb. 12-28 – just 21 days away. Events will include alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsled, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, free-style skiing, ice hockey, luge, Nordic combined, short track speed skating, skeleton, ski jump, snowboarding and speed skating. Eighty-six gold medals will be awarded.
Full-fledged fans can get in the mood by visiting the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, and can buy a 2010 Olympics shirt or cap in the process.
Visitors get a chance to see athletes in training, although those competing in the Winter Olympics Games in Vancouver aren’t presently at the training center.
Olympic athletes have been using the Colorado Springs facility for more than 30 years. The facility is on the site of the former Ent Air Force Base and North American Aerospace Defense Command Headquarters.
The 2nd Air Force was housed at Ent Air Force Base during World War II. Later the base was home to NORAD while the Cheyenne Mountain facility was under construction.
As Ent Air Force Base had no runways, flying operations took place at Peterson Air Force Base.
In the 1970s Peterson Air Force Base began to expand and many units and organizations at Ent were relocated to Peterson. Ent was permanently closed in 1976 and the property returned to the city.
The property was later acquired for a training center by the Olympic Committee. Early on, some of the military buildings were used to house, feed and train athletes. A few of the Air Force base’s buildings are still in use.
Over the years, millions of dollars have been spent in construction and improvements at the 37-acre training center site. The facility can house more than 500 athletes and coaches at a time.
The 45,000-square-foot aquatic center has a 50-meter by 25-meter pool. It is used by swimmers and water polo athletes, as well as for cross training. The pool holds more than 800,000 gallons of water.
Two sports centers accommodate 23 sports. One building is 59,000 square feet and has several gymnasiums. The second building is 54,000 square feet. Athletes use the facilities for gymnastics, boxing, volleyball, wrestling, judo and fencing.
There is also a shooting center at the facility, sports medicine, a dining hall and dormitories.
The training center’s world-class velodrome is in Memorial Park, a few blocks away. One of the top-rated velodromes in the world, records have been set there. The 333.3-meter track is banked at 33 degrees.
Other Olympic training facilities are at Lake Placid, N. Y. and Chula Vista, Calif.
Free guided tours of the National Olympic Training Center are conducted Mondays-Saturdays, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., every hour on the hour.
Visitors should arrive at the visitor center a few minutes before the hour. Reservations aren’t necessary except for large groups. The tour begins with a short film about previous Olympic Games. Following the film, the guide leads the group along the Olympic path, pointing out items of interest and taking visitors into some of the training center facilities.
Silhouettes depicting the 45 sports from the Pan American Games are along the Olympic path.
About 150,000 visitors take tours each year.
At the end of the tour visitors may visit the Hall of Fame, the Olympic Flame on top of the building and the Spirit Store. The store has a huge collection of Olympic-related sports clothing, sporting equipment and souvenirs. Pins, key chains, volleyballs, baseballs and souvenir-type items are sold. Store profits go toward Olympic programs.
Interactive computers allow visitors to learn about Olympic athletes.
The Olympic complex is on Boulder Street, just west of Union Boulevard, near Memorial Hospital, at One Olympic Plaza. Ask the guard for directions to the Visitor Center.
Several statues are along the path and in front of the Visitor Center.
Inquire at the Visitor Center about athletic events that are sometimes held at the training center or other venues in the area and open to the public.
For instance, a hockey game between the USA Women’s team and Finland is Feb. 4, at
7 p.m. Tickets costing $8-$12 are sold at the World Arena box office.
For more information about Olympic sports, athletes and events, go to http://www.teamusa.org.