Grasped in the hands of Clara Hughes, the sight of our nation’s flag waving in the air on Feb. 12 in Vancouver will synchronize the collective desires and expectations of millions of Canadians.
These expectations come in concordance with the development of Own the Podium (OTP), a $110- million dollar investment designed to increase the chances of Canadian athletes finishing first in the medal standings by providing the necessary funding and training needed to compete at the highest level.
“We dared to say we wanted to be number one,” OTP head Roger Jackson told Macleans.ca. “If we’re going to do this, why should we say, ‘Yes, we’re number three?’ Why don’t we try to do something really special? It’s so much more fun.”
This competitive mentality stems from Canada’s inability to achieve a gold medal in Montreal 1976 or Calgary 1988.
As a result, a negative myth has been associated with our nation: When it comes to Olympic competition, we are the outsiders looking in.
Own the Podium is making a valiant attempt at deconstructing this myth through corporate sponsorships and advanced training regimes to give Canadian athletes every advantage they can get over the competition.
Some of these advantages include the rigorous scientific testing to which the athletes have been subject. The goal of these tests is to modify sub-optimal aspects of the athletes’ equipment to improve performance during the games.
“My equipment is getting better and better all the time,” Canadian snowboarder Matt Morison told Macleans.ca. “I knew everything under my feet was super fast.”
For the first time in Canadian history, our athletes will be awarded financially for placing in the medal standings: $20,000 for a gold medal, $15,000 for silver, $10,000 for bronze and $5,000 for a top five finish.
Clearly, the expectations placed upon the competitors will be at an all-time high.
The Olympics aren’t entirely based on athletic achievements alone–there are many aspects that are crucial to the overall success of the games:
- More than 5,500 athletes, officials and staff will be at the games, ensuring they run smoothly. Over 2,800 will be staying in the Olympic Village.
- There are 14 Olympic venues; Canada Hockey Place, Cypress Mountain, Freestyle Skiing Stadium, Pacific Coliseum, Richmond Olympic Oval, Snowboard & Ski Cross Stadium, UBC Thunderbird Arena, Vancouver Olympic Centre, Biathlon Stadium, Cross-Country Skiing Stadium, Ski Jumping Stadium, Whistler Creekside, Whistler Olympic Park, The Whistler Sliding Centre.
- Security will be tight in Vancouver–Integrated Security Unit (RCMP-led) to protect athletes and public. This includes members of Vancouver Police Department, West Vancouver Police Department and the Canadian Forces. They will be securing the Torch Relay and Vancouver’s ports.
Lost in the fray is the overall theme of entertainment that accompanies the Olympic experience. For the thousands of spectators from all corners of the globe attending the games, an electric atmosphere will surround the events.
All of these elements will combine on Feb. 12 to produce a competitive, yet exhilarating, Olympic experience for everyone from athletes to patrons. The pressure will be on to achieve, but the fun will still be there.
Olympic success skewed
In order to properly gauge Canada’s past Olympic tribulations on home soil it must be remembered that:
In 1976, the International Olympic Committee’s drug-testing regimen was not as sophisticated or as effective as today, and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), currently handling the majority of drug-testing, had not yet been established.
Unfortunately, certain countries took advantage of this lack of testing, including East Germany.
Kornelia Ender was the top performer on the East German Olympic swim team, which won four gold medals in Montreal, but was later associated with performance-enhancing drugs.
Team Canada won the bronze medal in two of those races: women’s 4 X 100 metre freestyle relay and women’s 4 X 100 metre medley relay.
Although Canada did not come in first place, many people believe that if the East Germans had not been using performance-enhancing drugs, that we had a shot at gold.