Tough Choices – And Times – Ahead In Canadian Olympic Sport
At a point when it should be the most exciting time on the Canadian Olympic scene with the 2010 Games fast approaching, it’s also a time of much trepidation.
And there’s a lot to be concerned about, what with this weekend’s Canadian Olympic Committee elections in Vancouver (read Dave Perkins' take here) and the announcement yesterday that the CBC plans a dramatic cutback in its coverage of amateur sport (Chris Zelkovich has the low down here).
There are a lot of Canadian Olympic insiders worried about the prospect of former Quebec Nordiques owner and CEO Marcel Aubut winning the election as president over Tricia Smith, a four-time Olympic rower who’s been involved with the COC at several levels.
Aubut is more of an outsider and there are concerns he’s doing it more out of personal ambition and a chance to eventually join the blue blazer brigade with the IOC. Those opposing him believe he’s making a lot of promises to organizations to get their votes that he can’t possibly fulfill once he gets in. They fear he’ll be reckless at a time when the COC needs to take a cautious approach, and that Tricia Smith represents stability at a time when it's needed.
Those who are hoping that Aubut succeeds believes he’s the perfect choice because of his business connections at a time when the COC will need to create new revenue streams and he’s a strong leader at a time when leadership is going to be crucial. It’s expected that Aubut would make the COC a more streamlined, business-like operation. Critics think too much money is being wasted with offices in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver.
The unfortunate part is the vote won’t be based on what’s best for Canadian sport, but rather the federations and officials with votes tend to vote on what’s best for them personally. There are all kinds of blocs and cliques – all the team sports have banded together, for example – and they will vote for the leader they feel best serves their objectives. In their view, that leader will also be best for sport but not necessarily so.
Make no mistake about it, there are perilous times ahead. The CBC cuts could be devastating for amateur sport. Think of the Canadian alpine team without its races being televised. Figure skating, swimming and track and field also face a big cut in their coverage. These are the mainstream sports. What about the lesser lights who get little to no coverage as it is?
Don’t expect CTV and TSN to fill the gap. They’re didn’t even aggressively pursue the rights to world championships in the big winter sports -- and they’re broadcasting the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
The taps are going to turn off in so many ways after 2010. You can understand why people are scared about the future.