Aiming for Excellence

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:29 AM ET

If Bob Nicolay has his way, not only will Calgary's winter games facilities be modernized, they will also be augmented by the addition of the nation's first Canadian Centre of Sport Excellence.

Introduced to the media yesterday, the man replacing John Mills as president and CEO of the Calgary Olympic Development Association said the major athletic/ice complex is just one of the many projects he'll focus on in the near future.

"A centre like that is something Calgary ought to be able to offer in conjunction with the assets that are already in place," said Nicolay, the former head of Enmax who envisions a centre capable of developing elite and recreational hockey players, figure skaters, track stars and various other athletes while also giving them access to top medical and scientific resources.

"That is part of the vision. It's to ensure this trend that's seeing Canadian athletes more and more successful in international competitions be sustained. Your athletes need every advantage possible and those things change over time. The phrase that's used around here is legacy assets. As you can see, they've been well maintained and well used -- nine sports teams still make extensive use of these facilities -- but it's time to recapitalize and make sure they're capable of meeting the standards of today's international competitions and today's athletes. It's also time to expand."

While the bulk of Olympic medalists in Turin trained in the venues borne out of the 1988 Games here, the fear around Calgary is the state of the art facilities being constructed for the 2010 Games in Vancouver/ Whistler will soon become the new home for Canada's top winter athletes. After all, it has been 18 years since Calgary hosted the world and venues like the 90m ski jump at Canada Olympic Park need a major facelift while the roof at the Olympic Oval speed-skating facility needs replacing at great cost.

"Going in and looking at all the existing assets and making sure they're good for another decade, two or three of useful service is a big part of the strategy and augmenting that wherever it fits and there's a good demand," said Nicolay, a successful Alberta businessman who thrives on the development and implementation of strategies like the one that has Canada aiming at topping the podium in four years.

"I wouldn't call (Canadian athletes migrating to the West Coast) a concern and I wouldn't see that happening. Competitive athletes are going to go where the overall facilities are best. Vancouver is certainly putting in first-rate facilities but whether that becomes the legacy for training and competition for Canadian athletes going forward remains to be seen. I think the country can only support so many of those types of infrastructure investments."

And through CODA Calgary has supported such investments for almost two decades now.

Hoping to capitalize on the momentum generated in Italy, Nicolay takes great pride in Calgary's reputation as home of the greatest Games legacy in terms of making long-term use of facilities that were set up for a specific event.

"Money goes where success is," said the current governor of the Petroleum Club.

"I'm looking forward to the exciting opportunity to lead the renewal of the Olympic legacy in Calgary. This is a critical stage for Canada, Alberta and CODA as we work together to level the playing field for our athletes through the creation of the nation's first Canadian Centre of Sport Excellence."


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