CALGARY - While the 22-year-old, red-and-white uniforms looked dated next to their current white, green and blue counterparts, the enthusiasm of the crowd at Canada Olympic Park hadn't paled.
Thousands of Calgarians flocked Wednesday to the former centre of their city's Olympics to watch the torch of the 2010 Games speed down the bobsled track and zip back and forth on a snowboard.
The crowd of 6,000 who turned out to watch the torch was dotted with jackets worn by an army of volunteers at the 1988 Winter Olympics, as well as the occasional vintage torch-bearer uniform.
"It's a big reunion for Calgary to have the torch run through here," said John McFaul, who carried the torch 22 years ago and still had his uniform, including the floppy white toque.
"The spirit of the whole event kind of overwhelms you. It's just having that flame above you and representing, in a sense, the country for that brief moment in time when you have the torch in your hand."
In 1988, Canada Olympic Park was the main venue for bobsled, luge and ski jumping. The hill saw Finland jumper Matti Nyknen snag three gold medals and folk hero Eddie (The Eagle) Edwards come in dead. It is now a popular location for ski and snowboard lessons.
The torch shot unlit down the bobsled track because the flame is unable to survive the speeds the sled achieves as it hurtles along the ice. It was ignited at the bottom to gasps and cheers before being carried around the park. It was then taken by chairlift back to the top of the hill.
Sixteen-year-old Tyler MacRae carried the flame back down by snowboard, sliding easily back and forth along a half-pipe. He was greeted at the bottom like a celebrity, with children clamouring to pose next to him as he clutched his board and the white torch, its top singed black.
He laughed that its weight threw him off at first, but he quickly regained his balance.
"They wanted me to go pretty slow and kind of keep it mellow, so that's what I did. I only really noticed it for about two seconds, but I just kind of held onto it as tight as I could so it didn't drop."
The torch was then carried to a larger cauldron by Bill France, who was vice-president of sport for the 1988 Games. Spectators, unprompted, started singing a soft chorus of O Canada as the flame expanded and burned brightly.
"Tremendous," gasped France. "The Olympic spirit is still alive here in Calgary and we'll take the Games back any time."
Many children skipped school to steal a peek at the Olympic flame before it headed towards the Rockies, where it will cross into British Columbia for the final leg towards Vancouver.
The Olympic cauldron will be lit in Vancouver on Feb. 12.
Lucyna Shelley brought her three children, wearing the mauve 1988 volunteer jacket that she has pulled out and put on every winter since 1988.
Shelley, who performed a Polish dance in the opening ceremonies, said the flame's journey is the closest Calgarians have gotten to the excitement that gripped the city 22 years ago
"This is so far the closest that I could bring my kids to the Olympic torch, to the Olympics," she said.
McFaul said he had been trading stories and posing for pictures with fellow torch bearers and others who took part in the Games all morning.
He said when the torch last came to Calgary, some people lit candles from the flame and carefully carried them home to transfer into their furnaces. He likes to think that somewhere, that flame is still burning bright even as the new torch makes its way west.
"I'm sure there's lots of people who will have that forever, in Calgary, for sure."