With the 2012 Olympic Games over and all the results locked in, Canada has finished 13th in medal standings. Just shy of the Canadian Olympic Committee's goal of finishing top 12, Canada was able to produce 18 medals, tying our results to our performance in the Beijing Olympic Games. So, was the London Olympic Games a success or a failure for Canada? Some may justifiably argue that since we did not reach our goal, Canada failed. But, I'm not so sure I'd agree.
Now some people may be quick to chime in and compare our performance in London to that of Vancouver, where Canada finished third overall in the medal standings. When it comes to the Winter Olympic Games, Canada has clearly laid claims to being a formidable competitor in the race for owning the podium. But, when it comes to the Summer Olympic Games we have some ground to cover. However, comparing performances between these two Games is like comparing apples to oranges. They are two completely different animals.
There are 82 countries that compete in the winter Olympic Games and 205 competing in the Summer Olympic Games! Moreover, Canadians come out of the womb playing hockey, or skiing down black diamond hills. Not the case for summer sport. We desperately l lack the necessary facilities, coaches and resources to serve at the grass root level, never mind a world class athlete. Most cities have at least one ice arena. Can that be said about a track, probably the cheapest facility to manage? Not at all. Sadly, these needs were also echoed back in 1969, when a mission to improve the condition of sport in Canada was launched. It pains me to say 43 years later not much has changed.
Some may be quick to point out the availability of government funding, and movements such as Own the Podium, as changes in place designed to bolster our performances. The problem is these initiatives service the lucky few that do make it through the ranks to become a top ranked athlete in the world, while also creating a survival of the fittest amongst National Sport Organizations. Whereby, to those who are performing more shall be given, the rest must fend for themselves. We need to do a better job of creating athletes in the first place, instead of relying on the fortunate few who can afford organized sport, or athletes developed in the NCAA system to represent our country.
For Canada to begin owning the podium in the Summer Olympic Games, we have to create depth to our various sports and not simply anoint chosen ones to be our saviours come show time. This means rolling up our sleeves and starting to invest at the grass root, getting more kids exposed to various sports and involved. Simply casting a wider net and understanding this isn't something that will happen overnight, but an investment that requires at least 10 years to see the return on investment.
The math is simple, more athletes competing means more opportunities to medal. Our team size of 277 athletes was almost half of Great Britain's and the USA's, who had 541and 503 athletes, respectively.
Ironically, Canada has developed a highly praised policy, called Sport for Life, which is designed to improve the quality of sport and physical activity in Canada. Now we need to begin walking our talk and implement it!
All things considered, including the resources and opportunities available to athletes in Canada (compared to the rest of the world) and our meager team size Canada did amazing. We were good. But, can we be great? Definitely! And it starts by us as a country realizing that sport matters more than every four years and it is worth investing in.
To truly become a formidable nation in both the summer and winter Olympic Games, as a country we must change our current culture of sport. In the words of Pierre Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, "A country can truly call itself sporting when the majority of its people feel a personal need for sport."
Good to Great,