By Evan Gilbert
For most causal sports fans in Canada, and around the world, the Olympics take a short and intense place in our minds every two years. Over the course of the 2018 winter games in Pyeongchang, it didn’t seem possible to escape the coverage; with the vast amount of content across all platforms (even you, Snapchat).
The average viewer becomes consumed in the Olympic movement. However, when the games end, and before the next to arrive, the passion that spreads through the world seems to disappear without a second thought. There is an occasional ceremonial puck drop at an NHL game from an Olympic gold medalist, and the textbook appearance on Ellen from the sweethearts of the Winter Games, but there is no sustained energy to carry the Olympic movement from one game to the next.
To understand this phenomenon and what is being done to keep the Olympic movement burning bright, Dr. Scott Martyn and the graduate students of his “Crises, Politics, and Commercialism in the Modern Olympic Movement” course at the University of Windsor set off on a trip. The trip included stops at Toronto, Montreal, and Lake Placid on a “Great Olympic Journey” to meet with the leaders and proverbial flag bearers of the Olympic Movement. That’s where we come in as students of this course.
Throughout our journey, we engaged with members of the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) in Toronto and Montreal, where we gained insight into the efforts going into each summer and winter games from the perspective of commercial affairs, corporate partnerships, and team operations, to mention a few. We popped the hood and checked out the engine that drives Canada’s Olympic athletes to win medals on the world stage.
There is one word that has stuck with us throughout this “journey”: passion. It is something that is difficult to define, but it oozes throughout the entire COC. Many of the individuals at the COC are former Olympic athletes who are driven to usher in the next generation of talent. They have the unique advantage of hindsight, using their own Olympic success and failures to make the next games the best one yet. We learned that these ideas do not stop at the border as we traveled to Lake Placid to visit the United States Olympic Training Center located at the host site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games. There was a major difference between our experiences in Toronto and Montreal. The isolation in Lake Placid has provided a hotbed for the Olympic movement.
From watching adolescent daredevils soar through the cold Adirondack air off towering ski jumps, to listening to the tales of the Chief of Protocol of the 1980 games, Jim Rogers, the Olympic spirit has planted its roots in Lake Placid and become an immovable object. As a group who assumed the Olympic sites at Montreal and Lake Placid would have been left and forgotten from their Olympic glory days, this trip demonstrated otherwise, as we were exposed to the past, but also the present and future of the Olympic games, and we can tell you, that we are in good hands.
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