The Cascadia Center at Discovery Institute is a member of the Governor’s 2010 Olympics Committee formed to explore economic development, transportation and tourism opportunities for Washington State surrounding the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.________________________________________________________________
It took a group effort for Vancouver to earn the right to host the 2010 Winter Olympics.
And the man who’s running the show in Vancouver says it’ll take another group effort to make sure Canadians hit the podium in 2010.
John Furlong, the host organizing committee’s chief executive officer, said Thursday that investment in training athletes now will pay huge dividends in six years, when the world’s focus turns to Vancouver.
“Let’s face it, when a Canadian athlete crosses the finish line first, it changes the way Canadians feel about themselves and about their country,” said Furlong during a media briefing at Canada Olympic Park.
“We have to make more people buy that and understand that. We have to use 2010 as the place where we end this concern we have about athletes not having enough to be the best. We have to give them the best we can . . . it’s an opportunity like no other.”
And so far, it’s an opportunity that corporate Canada, at least, is recognizing by stepping up with increased sponsorship. But critics, including the president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, Michael Chambers, say the federal government isn’t doing its part.
Furlong, though, refused to pile on the government.
“It’s not fair to finger-point at anyone; it’s everyone’s obligation,” he said.
“It’s an issue we should all care about. We tend to finger-point a lot about who owns responsibility. We need a country without borders for stuff like this. We all have a stake in this.
“We need to get people to agree that it’s a priority, and to find the resources necessary to give these young people what they need. If we give them half a chance, they will inspire the country.”
While Furlong was trying to remain diplomatic — keep in mind, the federal government is on the hook for $320 million in Games funding — Calgary Olympic Development Association president John Mills felt no such obligation. “The corporate sector has figured this out,” said Mills.
“There have been many announcements by companies like Telus, the Royal Bank, CIBC, Molson’s and others who recognize the need to invest, and invest soon, in providing Canada’s athletes with what they need to succeed.
“We still have work to do in ensuring the government of Canada recognizes that message.”
That, said Mills, could be the difference in ensuring a Canadian hits the top step on the medal podium for the first time on home soil. We were shut out in gold medals in both 1976 at Montreal and 1988 at Calgary.
And even if the Vancouver Games are an artistic and financial success, Furlong knows there will be a bitter taste left over if the Canadian anthem isn’t played a few times in 2010.
“There’s a difference between its importance and whether it’s in our mandate,” said Furlong. “The mandate of the organizing committee is to stage a spectacular Games, to bring the country together, and all of that, and we’re going to do that.
“But our obligation is to also try to do everything we can to fertilize the atmosphere so that Canadian athletes have what they need to be great.
“The Canadian public will judge the Games on the basis of how well they were done and how well we did at them, and we can’t forget our obligation there.”