Mon, September 23, 2013

QMI sits down with COC president Marcel Aubut

By

Rejean Tremblay, QMI Agency


Will Marcel Aubut return as president of the Canadian Olympic Committee for the 2014 Winter Games? He's not saying -- yet. (Photo courtesy Mike Riderwood)

I was right in the centre of Trafalgar Square. The very heart of London. There is only one truly impressive residence in Trafalgar Square — the Canada House.

It used to be an embassy before a smarter-than-most politician bought it from the English in the early 20th century.

“It’s hard to believe the British agreed to sell us this property,” Marcel Aubut excitedly raves in a large conference room next to his office. “Trafalgar Square is Picadilly, it’s the true London, anyone who is rich and can afford it dreams of taking up residence on Trafalgar. This great house was sleeping, we woke her up.”

The president of the Canadian Olympic Committee has set up shop in the Canada House as did the COC. The same way he tries to establish, wherever possible, French and English. He points to the walls, on which are magnificent posters of the country’s best athletes. A French poster, an English one, and so on and so forth all around the room.

“It’s a huge challenge, truly. Making it all bilingual. Everything, the communications, the decorations, the organization’s culture. Making everyone understand that the country’s francophones have their place and deserve respect. I would like this to my legacy when I am done with the Olympic Committee,” Aubut says, sitting at the end of the large table.

Great challenges take time and Aubut’s mandate as COC president ends in April 2013. What will he do? Will this tireless worker seek another term? He doesn’t want to talk about it.

“I haven’t made my mind up,” Aubut says with his trademark enthusiasm. “The COC presidency is as exciting as it is demanding. Helping athletes to shine helps the whole country. You don’t do it just for the medals. In the end, medals are irrelevant, but medallists become role models who can inspire the next generation. This can give a huge momentum to the country’s youth. I am lucky enough to play an important role in this whole process.”

We thought that Marcel Aubut’s arrival as head of the Canadian Olympic Committee would drastically change the organization’s tranquillity. Now he’s here, and it’s an complete revolution.

“Everything went even better than expected,” he says. “People are a lot more open to change than I would have believed. They were ready. We are now ready to give our athletes year-round visibility, we integrated the summer and winter teams, and the leaders too. We work as a team and what matters above the COC leaders’ individual and personal successes is the well-being of the organization.”

The interview is over. I need one final answer.

Are you going to seek another mandate in April 2013? It’s eight months away.

“I still don’t know. This is the kind of decision I make at the very last moment, when I cannot wait any longer,” he answers while shaking my hand.

It sounded true. Maybe he has not decided. It’s possible. Anyway, Canadian sport, big companies and the federal government better be ready. Marcel Aubut will be the COC president for Russia’s Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.

There is still so much to be done ...