Canada’s Olympic Dreams

In February 2010, Vancouver will host the Winter Olympics. As the Wall Street Journal reported, these games come with a different attitude from Canada in terms of winning.

Quick history lesson of Canada hosting Olympic games. Canada has hosted the Olympics in 1976 (Montreal) and 1988 (Calgary). In both of these games, Canada failed to win a single gold medal. They hope that the upcoming Olympic Games will change that. In fact, they are banking on it.

After Vancouver won the games in 2003, the government created the “Own the Podium” program with the objective to win the overall medal count. The article states that the government and other private groups has contributed 120 million CAD to the Own the Podium program. This has created a conflict amongst Canadians. Like the article states, some Canadians are happy about the push to win. While others are saying that it is very American and that is not what Canada is about.

I think there are two interesting questions as I sit down in front of my TV set this February and watch the Olympics. The first is regarding the 120 million dollars. Is that what Canadians truly valued for winning the podium (or gold medals)? Is the true value higher or lower? Second, what happens if Canada does not win the gold medal in ice hockey? Potentially, Canada could still win the overall medal count and not win that gold in hockey (which anyone who has lived or been in Canada realizes is a very important event). Would the games be considered a failure in the eyes of Canadians if they lose ice hockey on their home turf?

*Thanks to Bryan Goodall who sent me the article.


4 Responses to Canada’s Olympic Dreams

  1. Some clarifications:

    * The “government’ didn’t create Own the Podium, Cathy Priestner-Allinger completed the core concepts in a report to the Canadian Olympic Committee (a non-government agency that reports to the International Olympic Committee) shortly before she was hired by the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) as its executive vice-president of Sport.

    * The five-year budget of Own the Podium is C$110 million, 50% from VANOC on a best-efforts basis, which raised most of its funding by convincing its corporate sponsors to contribute, some of whom turned their donations into fund-raising contests, such as HBC’s Red Mittens campaign.

    * The Own the Podium program isn’t about setting a value for winning medals, it’s about using the Olympics to focus funding on developing and promoting elite athletes who, in turn, are used to expand, through marketing by the national sports federations the numbers of Canadians who take up their sports who wouldn’t normally do so. Ultimately, the concept is to improve the health for millions of Canadians.

    * Is the program a ‘failure’ if Canada wins a Silver medal (You seem to think one loses a gold, instead of winning a silver). Of course not; millions more Canadians are pursuing a healthy lifestyle by skiing, or skating, or curling or playing hockey, or whatever. Will we cry and moan in our beer if we end up with a Silver in hockey? Well, as us Canucks like to say, we’ll be hurtin’ for certain!

  2. BRH says:

    I would be interested in your evidence that the Own the Podium program has caused “millions more Canadians” to participate in physical activity.

  3. BRH: If you’re talking to me, I didn’t write what you think I wrote.

  4. brhumphreys says:


    Really? In your point #3 you claim that Own the Podium is about getting Canadians to “take up their sports who wouldn’t normally do so” and in point #4 you state that “millions more Canadians are pursuing a healthy lifestyle by skiing, or skating, or curling or playing hockey, or whatever.”

    Care to clarify what you meant? Because that sounds to me like a claim that Own the Podium increased participation in physical activity in Canada.


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