Fri, September 20, 2013

COC prez Aubut: London Games a miracle

By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency


Marcel Aubut, president of the Canadian Olympic Committee during a medal celebration at Canada House for the Canadian women's bronze medal soccer team. AL CHAREST/QMI AGENCY

LONDON - As the London Summer Olympic Games wind down, QMI Agency had the opportunity to sit down with Canadian Olympic Committee president Marcel Aubut to get his thoughts and views on these Games, where they stack up and what he thinks of the performance of the Canadian athletes.

Here is an edited version of what he had to say:

QMI: How are these Games going to be remembered by you for their organization and the way they were staged?

Aubut: That’s a tough question because these are my 11th Games and I’ve thought about which I would put first. I am very close to putting London at the top, very close. Probably tomorrow night after the closing ceremony, that’s going to be my last conclusion. I think they did a miracle here. Just imagine, London as far as traffic is concerned, the most jammed city in the world with Tokyo and those cities. All of a sudden you put on top of that the Olympic Games which are the biggest event on Earth and you succeeded after a couple of days to adjust everything so you feel there’s no problem about changing spots, to travel. I don’t know how they did it. To be honest, I know London very well from the business side of it. I can’t believe what they have achieved here as far as the hotels, food. Absolutely impeccable. I would compare it closely to the Winter Games in Vancouver, but Winter being Winter and Summer being Summer, much bigger. It’s a big rating I would give them.

“The reception is close to perception. Two hundred and seventh-seven athletes and not one complaint. No complaint from any support staff. Zero complaint. I don’t remember when I’ve heard that before.”

QMI: How will you remember these Games as far as the Canadian experience here?

Aubut: It will be a good memory. It helped to be hosted this way. Secondly, I saw those athletes getting prepared. I saw them perform. I saw them give everything to win. We should be very proud of this team. This team got together so well. That’s rare, also. There’s often frustration inside the team. We didn’t see that. Probably because of the chef de mission (Mark Tewskbury) and assistant chef (Sylvie Bernier). Experience and great leadership. That played a big role. They will be tough to replace a couple like that.

“Secondly, I think the attitude of our athletes and the character of our athletes is absolutely remarkable. There were some disappointments, of course, there always are at the Olympic Games. The other side some situations were we have no control and create a lot of frustration. I like they way they came back after those frustrations. The best example is soccer. They could have totally lost their focus after what happened against the USA. No. You saw them come back and give everything in that last game against a team where the national sport of the country is soccer and beat them in the last minute. I’m telling you, that’s what I call great athletes.

QMI: How can soccer use the result and the attention the women’s team got to help soccer, help the Olympic movement going forward?

Aubut: I think this is a major highlight of the Games. It’s the first time since 1936 that team sport in the summer won a medal. That’s many years ago. They saw potential there because soccer was all men and women were treated secondary. Canada had vision about taking that channel and building a fantastic soccer team. I think this is going to be great for soccer in Canada. I think this is going to change the whole thing for generations to come. I think it’s going to be a big lift for women in sport. I think this also going to be the opportunity to convince the financial suppliers - the government, OTP (Own The Podium) - to put more in team sports. Then you’ll see major changes occur because of the that bronze medal.

QMI: When will we see Canada bid for an Olympic Games again? You have a great connection to Quebec City. There’s always talk there will be a bid for the next available Winter Games which would be in 2022.

Aubut: My is my job to encourage any city in my country, in our country. I have a coast-to-coast job and I really do see it that way. If Toronto is the best chance to get the Summer Games, perfect, I am going to be there for them. If Quebec is the best place, the best bid to get us the Winter Games, which would be fantastic, let’s do it. I really want the cities being very interested in international events including Olympics and the world championships. Pan-Am Games is also going to help with Toronto. We are going to make a huge success of that. It’s going to be very close to what the Olympics could be. That’s why on the Canadian Olympic Committee we have full-time staff having the mandate to go see mayors of different cities to say, ‘This competition that is coming, it’s for you. It’s a good fit for you.’ Then they can justify building a new venue in that area. Often there isn’t enough interest because people don’t know the inventory of those possibilities. That’s a new platform for the COC.”

QMI: Does it matter to you that we are going home with just one gold?

Aubut: I would prefer to have many gold medals, of course. But on the other side, we were coming here on a mission of top 12 in 2012. That was really the target. Twelve in 2012 would be two rankings better than Beijing on the total number of medals. That’s the way we look at it. When we are able to generate lots more revenue, capital, a system that is going to give us recurrent revenue and not depend on the economy or the will of the sponsors, then we’ll have a chance to work at it with more coaches. We have the right athletes. That’s a given. You know one thing: I have the philosophy there is no difference between winter and summer athletes, but we’re not giving the same opportunity to our summer athletes because they have to go to other places in the world to train. That takes a lot of money, but it’s the way to get gold one day.”

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

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