Ex-gold Olympic medalist will guide Own the Podium 

Former rower steps up

The new head of the $110 million Own the Podium project believes that Canada will be out front with medals at the 2010 Olympics in Whistler and Vancouver.

"I am very optimistic," said Dr. Roger Jackson a former gold medalist in rowing who competed in three Olympics, 1964, 1968 and 1972.

The Calgary resident was named chief executive officer of Own The Podium this week as Canadian sport organizations and the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympics prepare for the Games.

Launched in January, the Own the Podium project is designed to help Canada win 35 medals at the 2010 Games and finish atop the medal standings. VANOC has pledged to raise half of the $110 million needed for the program. The province has already contributed $5 million.

"This marks a tremendous step forward in Canada’s effort to own the podium, that is to be No. 1 in podium finishes in 2010," said Michael Chambers, president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, of Jackson’s appointment.

"The Canadian Olympic Committee has been advocating for some years now that the most effective way of implementing Canada’s high performance sport strategy is through an independent stand-alone body or agency.

"Roger Jackson has his (hands on) the steering wheel of just such an organization today in the form of Own the Podium 2010."

The Canadian Paralympic Committee has also been seeking the establishment of an independent body to help Canada improve its performance in the sporting world.

"This program addresses a very fundamental missing piece in Canada’s high performance system and at its core that is essentially being an objective, expert based group of respected sport technical leaders working with the national sporting organizations and (which) will also be making the funding decisions," said Brian MacPherson, chief operating officer for the CPC.

VANOC’s Cathy Priestner-Allinger said: "We are thrilled to have (Jackson) accept this position and to help lead Canada to become the number one winter nation in 2010."

Jackson, 63, currently chairs the board of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport. At the moment he is working part-time for Own the Podium as he wraps up a report into how to improve the performance of Canada’s summer Olympic athletes.

A former director of Sport Canada, he was also elected three times as the president of the Canadian Olympic Committee. He was dean of the faculty of kinesiology at the University of Calgary from 1978 to 1988 and was the founder and director of the University of Calgary Sport Medicine Centre. He retired from the university in 2004 to start Roger Jackson and Associates Ltd., a private consulting practice that has seen him work on six Olympic bids and consult for two Olympic host cities including London 2012.

Jackson, said during a conference call, that he was very excited about taking on the Own the Podium project.

"It is quite an interesting moment in Canadian sport history," said Jackson.

"I am really looking forward personally to the development of our strategic plan and assessment of where we are and looking at it in a very objective, professional away and looking at where we can make the greatest gains and how we best do that.

"For me that is the real excitement of this project. We will be able to implement brand new programs which we have not seen before.

"We were fourth in the last Winter Olympic Games in 2002 and we have a lot of ground to cover. But we have four years to do it and I am very optimistic that we are going to not only reach that goal but we are going to dramatically change the Canadian sport system."

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