Own The Podium branding a mistake?

Rudge admits better name could have been chosen

By BOB MACKIN, QMI Agency



VANCOUVER -- The Canadian Olympic Committee’s chief executive won’t apologize for setting high goals for Canadian athletes competing at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

But Chris Rudge admits the Own the Podium branding may have been a mistake.

“We could’ve maybe more euphemistically come up with a name that described helping our athletes be the best they could be,” Chris Rudge said Monday. “There are many people who would say there was a little bit too much braggadocio in that. Well, in hindsight there are many things you might choose.”

Rudge gave up on Canada’s chances to catch the United States at the top of the medals table in Vancouver, but said the focus is now to battle Germany for second place. The Games, he said, are witnessing greater parity with the rise of athletes from China and South Korea.

Rudge said the $100 million public and privately funded Own the Podium was originally conceived by Alpine Canada, but it spread across the spectrum of winter sports.

“That’s become part of the lexicon of sport leadership and sport development and discussion among Canadians about high performance sport in this country in a way that we would not have anticipated,” Rudge said.

Canada failed to win a gold medal at both the Montreal 1976 Summer Olympics and Calgary 1988 Winter Olympics. Own the Podium was aimed at making Canada the medal leader for the first time in Olympic history. As of Monday, Canada had four gold, four silver and one bronze, less than half the 24 won four years ago at Turin, Italy. U.S. (24), Germany (20) and Norway (13) had the top three spots in Vancouver medals standings.

Several Canadians hyped to be medal contenders, including several alpine skiers, have had disappointing results. Blogs and Twitter exploded with criticism last weekend and included discussion on a range of satirical names like Rent the Podium, Pawn the Podium, Disown the Podium and Own Immodium. Rudge said he is not offended.

“There’s a lighter side to this, this is sport,” Rudge said. “This is not the sacrifice our soldiers are making in Afghanistan, which is much more profound.”

As for the program itself, Rudge said it will be analyzed after the Games. He is hopeful funding will remain in the federal budget, to be tabled March 4 in the House of Commons.

“It’s painful to go into the autopsy while the patient is still alive and kicking,” he said.

bob.mackin@sunmedia.ca

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