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Olympic Legacies – What lies Beyond The Podium?

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Was it only me? Or did anyone else notice that there was a notable difference between the Canadian "faces in the crowd" and the faces of Canada's new Olympic winners? I mean, did anybody else question why the former offered a rainbow of colors and cultures while the latter (with few exceptions) was shockingly white and Euro-rooted?

I'm sure I don't need to tell you how our country's demographic profile has changed in the last couple of decades. Blame the Liberals if you want, but I believe we're all the richer for it. Whether Indian or Filipino, Chinese and First Nations, 21 st century Canada features one of the richest mélange of cultures anywhere in the world. But you certainly wouldn't know that from a perusal of our top athletes' names and back-stories....

So what's going on? To me, it's obvious. Becoming an elite athlete in Canada is reserved for a very small segment of the population. And it has very little to do with athletic talent. Opportunity, cost, culture, attitude, history - they all come into play. For New Canadians, the obstacles to sports participation - even on a casual basis - can be overwhelming. And that, I believe, is our biggest challenge in instituting a truly Olympian lifestyle here.

But it doesn't take much to eliminate many of these obstacles. Consider my wife's work with underprivileged moms just prior to her untimely death last year.

Wendy drew most of her inspiration from her own experience. As an athlete herself - and then as the parent of growing athletes - she quickly realized that the key to positive change rested with the mothers of this world. This was her "Ah-ha" moment. And it was a profound one. She knew from her university research that kids were far more active in sports if their moms were involved in physical activities themselves.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not talking world-class athlete or anything. Rather, what Wendy discovered was that active moms - whether modest walkers or joggers or more adventurous skiers or hockey players - are far likelier to encourage their offspring to play sports than those who do nothing.

That's why the idea of promoting physical literacy among less-privileged mothers in order to get their kids active appealed to Wendy so much. To her it was simple: get these moms involved, introduce them to the gentle joys of walking or riding or swimming, and then stand back and watch the sport community grow.

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