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Hudson’s Bay Company steps up as Games’ third national sponsor

The Bay also lands rights to provide athlete uniforms through to 2012

Olympic officials have chosen the Hudson’s Bay Company to outfit Canadian athletes at the next four Olympic Games, ousting long-term Olympic clothier Roots.

The deal is part of a sponsorship deal between Canada’s largest department store retailer and oldest corporation, and the Vancouver Organizing Committee, which will see at least $100 million in financial support over an eight-year period through the 2010 Olympics.

"We think it is a great opportunity for our company and for Canada and the Games and we are absolutely ecstatic," said Rob Moore, vice president of corporate communications for the Hudson’s Bay Company.

VANOC officials too were thrilled to land another large sponsorship deal.

"What they are is Canada’s company," said Dave Cobb, senior vice president of revenue, marketing, and communications at VANOC.

"They have been around forever and they have a fantastic history of supporting Canada’s athletes."

The sponsorship deal has been in the works for over a year and drew on the friendship between VANOC CEO John Furlong and Hbc president and CEO George Heller.

"What Mr. Furlong knows of (Heller) was definitely how we were able to build this into a very, very significant sponsorship deal, (one) that hasn’t ever been done in the category before," said Cobb.

Roots, whose "poorboy hat" became the must-have item at the Nagano Olympics and at Salt Lake in 2002 will continue to design and supply uniforms for other Olympic teams, including the U.S. team.

But the organization admits to being puzzled by VANOC’s decision to allow Hbc to provide uniforms for athletes through to 2012 when the 12 companies bidding on the uniforms for 2006 were told they could only put a proposal in for one set of Games.

"We found it puzzling today when sure enough the deal was made for 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012 when that was something we were told not to address by the committee because they were not going to address that until the ’06 bid was nailed down," said Roots spokesman Rob Sarner.

The company competed along with 11 other companies for the rights to provide uniforms for Canadian athletes for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games.

No date has been set for the unveiling of the new uniforms. But said Chris Rudge, CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee, athletes will get involved right away to get the process underway.

The COC welcomed the news that Hbc had stepped up as a sponsor for the 2010 Games.

"From our perspective the Hudson’s Bay certainly has an outstanding record of supporting Olympic sport in Canada," he said.

Hbc has designed Canadian athlete uniforms for the Commonwealth Games and it also was the winter Olympic Games clothier from 1936 to 1968.

As of November the department store will offer Olympic merchandise in most of its 550 stores across Canada. It will also provide other items leading up to and during the Games, including the uniforms worn by the 25,000 volunteers needed for the 2010 Games.