Posted by: ownthepodium | February 14, 2010

Excellence and Ambition are Canadian Virtues

I have been somewhat surprised by certain media, particularly foreign media, and frankly a few Canadians, who are trying to make something of the fact that Canada has a program to encourage excellence in winter sport. Their slant on this has been that such ambition is un-Canadian, or overly ambitious.

The Own The Podium (OTP) initiative started after Vancouver was awarded the 2010 Games in 2003. The intent of the OTP initiators was to try to have a good Canadian team (Olympic and Paralympic) performance at the Games, to promote interest in the Games nationally, and to engender pride in Canadians of our athlete’s performances. Of course, Canadian sports welcomed the new opportunities to develop their sports that would arise from such an initiative.

Canadians seem to agree with these goals. In a very recent (February 2010) Angus Reid poll:

  • a strong majority of Canadians believe that it is important for Canada to finish amongst the top 3 nations in total medal count (73%).
  • 9 out of 10 Canadians felt a top three finish at the Winter Games would have
    a positive impact on national pride (91%) while almost 8 in 10 had the same view on national unity (79%).

 A national goal needed to be set in order to focus all the sport’s attention on some target. As Canada finished tied for 4th spot in total medal count (17 medals) at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, it was decided we should strive to be first. A bold goal to be sure, but worth trying.

We assumed that meant about 30 medals.  At the 2006 Torino Winter Games, Canadian athletes had won 24 medals, one less that the Americans, and 5 less that the Germans (29). In Canada’s case, we benefitted enormously from a 5-medal performance by speed skater Cindy Klassen.

About a year ago, at the conclusion of all winter sport’s World Championships, Canadian athletes won more medals than any country, with 29 medals, 6 of them gold, with the Americans and German athletes winning 27 medals. So, there has been improvement since 2002.

 Having said this, the Olympic Games is a special event, much treasured by the athletes, and thus they all come prepared to do their best. Until the Games are over, one can not predict with any certainty what will happen.

 However, the OTP initiative has already achieved its goals, including the following:

  •  The improved Canadian performances have greatly interested Canadians in the Vancouver  Games.
  • Canadian sports have benefitted from much improved preparation for these Games, thanks to the support of the OTP funding partners.
  • The Canadian sport system has improved greatly as the result of OTP being formed and providing full-time national high performance leadership. 

So, whatever the Canadian results, we have achieved our goals. I expect by the end of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, all Canadians will be very proud of our Olympic and Paralympic team performances. 

Referring back to the poll conducted by Angus Reid, Canadians expressed their support for investing in and continuing a performance-focused initiative like Own the Podium in the post-2010 era (74%).

Motivating more Canadians to participate in winter sport (84%) and in physical activity in general (77%) was also seen as a positive impact of the potential result.

Posted by: ownthepodium | February 12, 2010

“Here is some good news that I want to share!”

Canadians Want Canada to Own the Podium in 2010 and Beyond

Over 7 out of 10 Canadians want a top 3 result for Canada at the Vancouver 2010 Games and for an initiative like Own the Podium to continue.

Ottawa, Ontario (February 11, 2010)

In the lead up to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, a poll conducted by Angus Reid on behalf of the Sport Matters Group indicates that a strong majority of Canadians believe that it is important for Canada to finish amongst the top 3 nations in total medal count (73%). Similarly, Canadians expressed their support for investing in and continuing a performance focused initiative like Own the Podium in the post 2010 era (74%). This level of support applies across all age groups, genders, education levels and regions, with Quebecers more likely to express their support for both the performance objective and the initiative (85% and 79%, respectively).  The poll also sought the views of Canadians on the impact of a potential top‐3 result in podium performances during the Olympic Games. 9 out of 10 Canadians felt this would have a positive impact on national pride (91%) while almost 8 in 10 had the same view on national unity (79%). Motivating more Canadians to participate in winter sport (84%) and in physical activity in general (77%) was also seen as a positive impact of the potential result.

 “This snapshot tells us that on the eve of the Games, Canadians want to see Canadian athletes on the medal podium on the world stage. They want to see us achieve our goals as a nation in Vancouver and they want to see us continue on this path in the years ahead. It’s also clear that Canadians are making a connection between achieving our Olympic goals and other national priorities, like national unity, community sport participation and healthy active living for Canadians,” remarked Ian Bird, Senior Leader of the Sport Matters Group.

 “These are indicators that we plan to track over the coming weeks, through the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as in the months that follow. The sport community wants to meet the expectations of Canadians and this kind of information will help us stay on track.”

Visit to view the detailed tables, data breakdowns and methodology.

 The Sport Matters Group (SMG) is a voluntary group of Canadian sport and physical activity leaders who work together to advance the important contribution that sport makes to society, to strengthen public policy and to promote innovation in sport systems.

For enquiries:

Ms. Liz McDonald

Community Engagement Coordinator

M: (613) 314-4171

Posted by: ownthepodium | February 11, 2010

One day to go…

It is obviously a very exciting moment for all participants associated with the Winter Games. One day to go, and for VANOC, the next 16 days is what this marvellous team has been working for, for seven years. The Own The Podium program has been working with the winter sports for five years. From a time standpoint, it is as if we all started our undergraduate degrees years ago and are now approaching the completion of our Masters degrees, with final examinations for VANOC and the athletes coming up in the next two weeks.  All of us think we have worked very hard and are ready, but with the anxiety that things could go wrong, we have another two weeks of fretting to be sure we all get through this with flying colours. I have great confidence that we will do well.  Let the Games begin!

Posted by: ownthepodium | February 11, 2010

Funding Parties OTP Briefing – February 10, 2009

Today and yesterday, we have had a flurry of media interviews, including a briefing by the Funding Parties of OTP at the Main Media Centre

The federal government, which has provided the most funding to OTP, announced a continuation of their funding for the winter program (about $10 million per year ) following the Games, and a continuation for the summer initiative (about $31 million per year  as we soon enter the 2010/11 fiscal year) as we soon enter the 2010/11 fiscal year.

The federal government, whose willingness to finance this project at the beginning, also twice helped enormously with cash flow needs of OTP. On one occasion, they doubled their annual contribution to buy time for VANOC corporate sponsors to generate their own funding, and then again this year, added an additional $11 million to their commitment (from the original $55 million to $66 million) to guarantee final year support for the winter teams.

VANOC has been a stellar financial partner, encouraging their sponsors to contribute to OTP, convincing the provinces and territories to contribute, encouraging participation from a few municipalities, and initiating the $20.10 campaign and the red mittens campaign with the support of the Globe and Mail, CTV and other partners.

The COC has contributed about $7 million over 5 years and this has been very useful and flexible funding. The CPC contributed what they could.

I don’t believe we have ever seen in Canada such a consortium of financial partners  cobble together fundin for a national program:  the COC, CPC, general public contributions via the Canadian Olympic Foundation, and national and international corporations and three levels of governments all contributing to help Canadian athletes own the podium. This example certainly suggests the OTP initiative has resonated across Canada and demonstrates national pride in the winter athletes who represent us.

Posted by: ownthepodium | February 3, 2010

‘Conversion Rates’

There was discussion with the media yesterday about ‘conversion rates’ relating to Canadian athlete performances. This topic can be confusing. One of the requirements in improving Canadian team performance is converting initial success at World Cup or similar events to podium success at the ‘big’ event. So, to establish some way of measuring ‘conversion’, OTP identifies athletes who have achieved two top 5 performances in World Cup events, and then looks to see if they are on the podium at a World Championship or Olympic Games, the ‘big event’ later that year.

At the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, considering all sports, Canadian athletes had a conversion rate of 40%, with 17 medals from 43 athletes who had previously achieved the two top-five performances. Germany had a 67% conversion rate, quite exceptional, from 54 athletes to win 36 medals.

Four years later, at the Torino Olympic Winter Games, Canada had a conversion rate of 39%, with 24 medals from 61 athletes. At the 2009 World Championships our conversion rate was 49% from 59 athletes.  This conversion rate resulted in Canada winning a total of 29 medals, the most of any country in the world.

So, for Vancouver, with more than 60 medal potential podium athletes, we are expecting at least a similar conversion rate.

Posted by: ownthepodium | February 2, 2010

Opening Blog

Greetings to all of you!

Our small OTP staff, inundated with requests for information about the performance of the Canadian teams and what to expect at the Games, have decided that I should start a blog, and update it regularly through the Games!  So, I will do my best to regularly provide interesting information and insight that might not be readily available via the traditional media to those of you interested in news from the ‘new media’.

We also have an OTP website that contains lots of information, so be sure to visit it.

Our hope is that you will learn a lot about the Own The Podium 2010 project and all the efforts behind the scene as our 16 Olympic and Paralympic sport disciplines prepared over the past five years for this moment.  We will welcome your comments and questions.

Today Own the Podium is holding a Media Teleconference at 10:30am MTN to discuss if Canada is ready? With just 10 days to go until the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, I will briefly look back at the evolution of Canadian athlete results since Own the Podium was launched five years ago and focus on performance expectations heading into the games.


Roger Jackson

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