First Person 

Rudge sees a golden future

Funding, support lining up for Olympic athletes

For more than two years Chris Rudge has been the dynamic CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

It was a turbulent beginning for Rudge, as the Canadian team limped through the 2004 Summer Games in Athens with one of its worst medal hauls in decades.

There has also been controversy: Most notably with the COC deciding to take just top-12 ranked athletes to the summer Games instead of the top-16 and otherwise qualified athletes, as in the past.

But Rudge has also presided over the largest funding increase in Canadian sports history, as well as the creation of several new funding and support programs for sport organizations and athletes.

This week Rudge was in Vancouver to meet with the 2010 Games Vancouver Organizing Committee, and to announce another new program called Olympic Voices, which will give athletes an opportunity to speak at public and private events to raise money and awareness.

The Pique caught up with the COC CEO to find out what’s next for the Olympic program.

Pique – Now that you’ve been the CEO for over two years, including during the 2004 Olympics, which prompted massive calls for more investment for sports, how have you seen things change?

Chris Rudge – It’s been an interesting evolution. You’re right, the 2004 Games certainly drew attention to the performance of the team and was the cause for much discussion about what we needed to do better. That was the first part of it.

The second thing is that certainly having the Games here in 2010 has been a tremendous catalyst for discussion in this area and I guess the third thing is all the controversy around the standards we used to make up the (Olympic) team in 2004, and whether or not we should have had used top-12 or top-16 athletes in the world, and so on. I’m not saying that it was the right or wrong thing to do… but it was certainly good from the perspective of reassessing whether or not we care about winning in Canada, and if we do care, what the heck do we have to do in order to be more successful?

When you look at it from that perspective, I think we’re going through a pretty good evolution in Canada right now. Part of that had to be a change in the role that the COC plays in sport in Canada. Traditionally we were engaged in a broad variety of programs, many involving education, and the discussion of Olympic ideals in Canada. Our engagement with sport directly was minimal. We put the teams together and sent them to the Games, we paid for the team to go to the Games, bought uniforms, looked out for them while they were there, established the standards to make the team, etcetera; But we were never involved in building programs to enhance performance, and we weren’t involved in funding those programs that had the best chance for success.

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