See ya later, Beijing

ALISON KORN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:15 PM ET

Bye, bye Beijing, hello Vancouver.

Thank you, summer athletes, for your honourable service in Beijing at the Olympics and Paralympics. Now, would you please move yourselves out of the way so we can focus on Vancouver?

Oh wait. Sorry. Didn't mean to be so brusque.

That's the reality, though, as autumn marks a changing of the guard among Olympians, Paralympians, summer and winter athletes. For most summer athletes, autumn is the season to enjoy some downtime, attend banquets, workshops and tell stories. Some are back at work or school, while others are revelling in total freedom. All have earned a break.

"I'm kind of sick right now, I've just been doing so much," said trampoline silver medallist Karen Cockburn, who's been speaking, performing and training lightly. "I've been a little run down."

Even as the memory of Beijing fades, this autumn holds several attractive events for amateurs. Olympic gala fund-raising dinners, the Gold Medal Plates, will be held in six cities across the country, featuring premier chefs paired with Canadian Olympic and Paralympic athletes in a competition to crown the top culinary team nationwide.

And the voice of Canadian national team athletes, AthletesCAN, will hold its annual forum this year in Mississauga from Oct. 1-5. The forum brings together Canada's high-performance athletes to network, share ideas, learn about the sports system and develop leadership skills.

A group of them, including Cockburn, will open the Toronto Stock Exchange on Oct. 1. Not quite as exciting as U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps hosting Saturday Night Live last weekend, but still special.

Then, from Oct. 24-26, the Canadian Olympic Committee hosts its Post-Olympic Excellence Series in King City to help summer athletes prepare for the transition. A weekend designed by older athletes who've been through the ups and downs of retirement from sport -- so yes, I'm pitching in -- it addresses the physical, emotional, financial and career aspects of joining the real world.

Meanwhile, for winter athletes, downtime is done.

Already the women's hockey team is holding an evaluation camp in Calgary, short track speed skating is going through its World Cup selection at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, and the men's sledge hockey team was picked last week.

The 2010 Vancouver Olympics are just 17 months away and not a day goes by without an announcement from the organizing committee, VANOC.

Tickets go on sale Oct. 3, and the committee has launched a new graphic identity and website.

Today, a couple of Olympic luge athletes from Calgary are visiting Toronto to meet national media. The message: Get to know us now, because February 2010 will be here all too fast.

Amateur sport is in the midst of a spotlight shift. We'll miss Beijing, but bring on Vancouver.

SPORTS AND POLITICS

Only the Liberals and Green Party have presented any vision for sport, so far, in this election.

The Liberals' infrastructure plan and commitment to invest at least $3 billion to renew and expand sport and recreation facilities would support both athletes and communities, while the Green Party's $500-million commitment would address inactivity and long-term financial support for sport at all levels.

Ian Bird, senior leader of the Sport Matters Group, called on all parties to address the issue as Canada enters the Vancouver 2010 era and prepares for the boost in sport registrations following the Olympics. "If we work together, we can help athletes reach the podium and eliminate wait times in community sport," Bird said.

WATERFRONT MARATHON

Up to five women and five men could qualify for the Berlin World Championship Marathon in August 2009 based on their finish times in the Sept. 28 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon -- the first occasion that the local event has had this status.

Newcomer Dylan Wykes of Kingston and veteran Nicole Stevenson of Toronto lead the Canadian lineup.

The marathon attracts participants from over 35 countries and aims to raise $1 million for over 60 Toronto neighborhood charities. For more information visit www.torontowaterfrontmarathon.com.


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