Aubut the eternal optimist

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:52 PM ET

TORONTO - Taking over the Canadian Olympic Committee now is a lot like becoming general manager of a Stanley Cup champion a couple of months after the parade.

You have nowhere to go but down.

Only Marcel Aubut doesnt see it that way. He loves the challenge, lives for the challenge of making the Olympics relevant in this country for more than three weeks every four years.

Winning the Stanley Cup is a helluva thing, said Aubut, buying in to the analogy. Keeping the Stanley Cup is even better. Thats our challenge. This is a special time in this country and its our job now to make sure the flame stays alive.

This is a time unlike any before. A country still breathing in all that fresh Vancouver air. And while this should be a time of celebration for the COC, it has instead become a time of significant change. Out, by choice, is the popular Chris Rudge, and the lifers he worked with, Lou Ragagnin and Dave Bedford. There may be more changes coming. Also out is Roger Jackson, leader and basically father of the Own The Podium program.

And while no one is saying anything dubious about any of the changes, we are left to wonder: If Vancouver was the success we all believe it to be, why are so many of those who were significantly involved with that success getting out or being pushed out, now?

Aubut maintains that all is well and this is just the right time to take advantage of the momentum of Vancouver. Then again, Aubut is kind of guy who looks at a grey sky and sees blue, who has never had a bad day in his life and likes nothing more than to be told he cant because he always seems to find a way. (The exception being, the sale of Quebec Nordiques to Denver interests, which was good for Aubut, bad for Quebec.)

The new Canadian Olympic team has Aubut as president, Jean Dupre, the longtime speed skating boss, as CEO, and Chris Overholt, most recently of the Miami Dolphins, as COO. For those keep track, thats a new CEO and a new COO for the COC, which means at least they have all their initials in place, The rest well find out over time.

So here is the challenge: Canada has never been as Olympically aware as it is right now. It is nearing two months from the end of the Vancouver Olympics and the Games and all that it offered is a regular topic of daily conversation. This weekend a huge celebration of Canadian Olympic and Paralympic athletes will take place in Montreal. This is new and this is something to build on: But how to do it?

Especially with the coming Olympics being a Summer Games and lets be honest, no one is talking about Owning any Podium for London in 2012. The occasional foot on the podium would be nice.

Evaluating success is all relative, said Dupre, sounding CEO-like.

I think we were successful in Vancouver and I think we will be successful in London in relation to the objectives we have set for ourselves. On the contrary, we should see this (taking over COC) as a huge opportunity. There is enthusiasm for (Olympic) sport in this country. There is a place for sport. People vibrate a little more when they talk about sport.

In previous Olympics, two weeks after the Games nobody talks about us anymore. This is great. One of our major priorities is to capitalize on the excitement and the legacy these Games have left.

Aubut likes to think big, talk big, all of it with a capital B. Sometimes an S goes along with the B. But hes also proven to be capable of great things, superb events.

He wants more events in Canada, higher profile for Olympic sports, higher profile for the COC: More than anything, his goal is to keep Canadians inspired, not once every four years, but as often as possible.

The new COC team is in place with big shoes to fill. Winning the Stanley Cup once is fine. Building the kind of dynasty Aubut talks about? Now that is a mountain climb.

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: simmonssteve@twitter.com


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