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Evidence of meeting #34 for Canadian Heritage in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was london.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Excellency Andrew John Pocock  British High Commissioner to Canada, British High Commission
Marcel Aubut  President, Canadian Olympic Committee
Charmaine Crooks  Five time Canadian Olympian and Olympic Silver Medalist, As an Individual
Christopher Overholt  Chief Executive Officer and Secretary General, Canadian Olympic Committee

11:55 a.m.

President, Canadian Olympic Committee

Marcel Aubut

Let's use the example of Joannie Rochette. There were psychologists, experts in virtually everything, on hand to support her. Why do you think the situation did not degenerate and she was able to return to competition, despite the situation? It was mostly due to the fact that she had those people and her team around her. She was surrounded by the top experts, who helped her calm things down and made her understand that life would go on. They made her understand that delivering another performance in that context was the best thing she could do. She was confident and won a medal.

This is a good example that shows we are ready for anything.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Pierre Nantel

Thank you, Mr. Aubut.

Lise St-Denis now has the floor.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Lise St-Denis Liberal Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

My question is for His Excellency Mr. Pocock.

You talked about vision, and that interests me. You said that the 2012 Olympic Games will result in benefits in terms of technology and municipalities, revitalizing five boroughs.

Has Great Britain planned an amateur sports policy related to the Olympic Games, following the event?

11:55 a.m.

Andrew John Pocock

It's a really good question and thank you. It links a bit to what Mr. Aubut has just said.

The United Kingdom has long been a champion of the amateur ideal, but in today's competitive world, amateur sport is very difficult to sustain at a championship level. We find that many of our Olympic athletes, and I know many of Canada's, are in full-time training. Sport is no longer, at the championship level, a part-time activity. It is a full-time, day and night, 365 day activity. That requires financial support. We have a double vision for sport in the U.K. What we want to see at the competitive level is support, both from sporting associations on the one hand and from the private sector on the other, for champion athletes who are at the pinnacle of their sport and who will compete in the Olympic games or in other forms of sport.

But your question is a shrewd one, because beneath that, what we'd like to see the Olympic Games do is to get young people—indeed people of all ages, including disabled people—to play sport, not at the championship level perhaps, but in a competitive and effective way. Like many other countries, we are facing in the U.K.—particularly among our youth—challenges of the digital age, with people sitting in front of their computers, the couch potato phenomenon. We face people who are perhaps overly concerned in some respects about health and safety aspects of competitive sport, particularly when it's contact sport. There are a lot of disincentives for young people. What we hope the games will do at the level below the championship one will be to encourage people to see sport as a chance to be excellent, a chance to reach their potential, and a chance to make themselves physically fit. When we saw in the video those beautiful images of human excellence, it was something inspiring.

I think the long answer to your short question is that sport at the top level will require enormous subsidies of different kinds, be they private sector or from the government. But beneath that, we do hope the games will inspire people of all ages and sizes to go back to playing sports.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Lise St-Denis Liberal Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

My next question is for you, Mr. Aubut.

I will be in Shawinigan on the day the Olympic Games kick off, as the Jeux du Québec will begin on the same day in that city. Is the Olympic organization planning to provide support for amateur sports, including the Jeux du Québec?

Noon

President, Canadian Olympic Committee

Marcel Aubut

We are one of the 204 countries with a legal Olympic committee. We are like a branch of the International Olympic Committee. We represent Canada and adopt the values and parameters of the International Olympic Committee. Therefore, high performance athletes are our priority.

However, our role in terms of Olympic values is much broader. We work on youth development. Our efforts consist in showing how the models created through the Olympic Games can benefit young people likely to experience problems related to drugs, school dropouts or alcohol. Sports are turning out to be even a big part of the solution for controlling health costs for Canadians.

That is what we are trying to do. Our mandate is much broader than simply making sure to win medals. That is how we are becoming something of a Canadian leader within our sports system, but also a major contributor to the improvement of our society. For instance, we ensure that a selection of talented athletes participate in the Jeux du Québec. That may provide those athletes with an opportunity to climb the ladder of sporting competition, with the Olympic podium as a crowning achievement.

May 31st, 2012 / noon

Liberal

Lise St-Denis Liberal Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

My last question is for Ms. Crooks. Still with regard to vision, do you ever work on educating the countries that forbid women from participating in sports? Are there any discussions on how those discriminatory policies can be modified? There is a whole portion of women from certain countries who cannot participate in the games because they are not allowed. Is that problem ever discussed? Are you trying to find solutions?

Noon

Five time Canadian Olympian and Olympic Silver Medalist, As an Individual

Charmaine Crooks

First of all, thank you for your question.

I'm very proud that here in Canada we have an excellent organization, the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity, which we work very closely with in order to further the leadership role of women in sport.

Also, when it comes to the participation of women in sport, we're probably internationally at about fifty-fifty. I was a member of the International Olympic Committee at a time when there were only 10 women of about 140 members. Now 20% is the new quota, which we believe will be reached during the Olympics this year when new members are put on board.

While the area of women's participation in sport has increased, there is still a huge gap in terms of female leadership in sport at the very high levels. I certainly welcome new and innovative ways to address that. There are a lot of great athletes and women from the business sector who are now becoming more involved in women in sport, but we also have a chance to showcase the leadership of women in sport by hosting events. We have events in Canada, such as the Women's World Cup, which will be coming here in 2015, as a way to showcase women in sport to get other young girls in that sport particularly. As well, if our athletes perform well, they can also inspire new generations of women in sport.

Clearly, the area of leadership is one that we do need to continue to address. I work with many organizations in trying to do that.

Noon

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Pierre Nantel

Thank you, Ms. Crooks.

I now yield the floor to Mr. Armstrong.

Noon

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you all for being here today.

Charmaine, in particular, thank you for being here. It's great to have an Olympic silver medallist in our presence. I wish you had brought your medal with you today.

I have some questions for you. You said in your statement that our support is second to none in Canada for high-performance athletes. I don't think this was always the case. In fact, I think when you were participating for Canada, amateur athletes struggled greatly in trying to find the time, the support, and the expertise in coaching. We didn't have the financial support backing our athletes.

Can you explain some of the differences that athletes are enjoying today compared to when you were participating for Canada?

Noon

Five time Canadian Olympian and Olympic Silver Medalist, As an Individual

Charmaine Crooks

There are several. When you look at the technology, I think that's a big area. Hosting the games in our country was a real catalyst for the injection of more funding into sport. That really helped. Whenever we have a chance to host the games or different events, it helps immensely.

Back when we were competing some 15 years ago, we had the carding system, which still remains strong, and that's an excellent part. We also have new partners. There is the Canadian Olympic Committee, which is working even more closely with sponsors to leverage support for athletes, be that via its marketing strategy or other kinds of direct support to athletes. We also have the Canadian Olympic Foundation, which is also going to be strong in providing support for athletes. There are a lot of other organizations that are doing excellent work in identifying ways to support athletes, whether it's a specific need or a more general need. That is very strong.

Chris may be able to provide more information about what's happening internally in the COC.

12:05 p.m.

Christopher Overholt Chief Executive Officer and Secretary General, Canadian Olympic Committee

Thank you for the question, Mr. Armstrong, because it's something we're very, very proud of.

The progression in the effort to prepare athletes and coaches for the experience they have at the games has been tremendous. Going back to soon after Athens, the Canadian Olympic Committee, at the time under Carol's leadership, took a great effort to understand what had transpired in the Athens games and with the strategy toward starting to improve the process around the journey for the athlete and coach in preparation for the Olympic experience, which, as defined by the athlete and coach community, was so very different from any other experience they'd had prior to it--multi-sport games, the distraction, as Marcel mentioned earlier, of family, of media, and all the many things that represents.

You wouldn't need to go back too far to see some of those changes. And again we're very proud of what Carol Assalian and her team deliver at the games, all the work they do in advance. It was mentioned earlier that our first trip in preparation for London happened in May 2007. That's a standard operating procedure for us now. Our teams are already making trips to Rio and certainly have been for some time making trips to Russia in preparation for those games.

The work the committee does directly with the families and directly with the athletes: there's a whole series of seminars that take place over a number of years leading up to the games to prepare the athletes and start those conversations and answer those questions for them--media training, the work that goes into preparing their families' understanding of what they'll experience. So it's a very strong point of difference for the Canadian Olympic Committee today. It's world-leading, I would tell you, something we're very proud of and expect to continue to grow as we go forward.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Thank you.

There's another side to this. I was a school principal in my previous life. The athletes we're supporting federally, a pretty big part of them go into our schools and talk to our children. They do this regularly, and they provide inspiration and a great message. The message isn't win at all costs; it's more to strive to be your best in whatever you want to do, whether it's in the arts, whether it's athletics, whether it's academics. They bring a really strong role model to schools and to our youth. It's particularly needed today when we face challenges of child abuse, as Mr. Pocock was talking about.

Have you gone into schools, Ms. Crooks, and talked to students? And how often do athletes do that? They do it quite regularly as far as I've experienced.

12:05 p.m.

Five time Canadian Olympian and Olympic Silver Medalist, As an Individual

Charmaine Crooks

Absolutely. I think most athletes do that. I've been doing that since I was in high school, going into schools and speaking.

You're right, you talk to the kids there and you help to inspire them, whether it's to be the best in music, in the arts, what have you. The inspiration from sport transcends. It's a universal principle. As I mentioned earlier, one of the values of the Olympics is about excellence. It's about excellence in anything. But sport is our platform. If kids can be inspired by that, then I encourage every athlete to go back to their school and speak to their school about those stories.

As I mentioned, there are 14,000 stories of those athletes from all across the world. But here in Canada, we have a very strong message and a strong powerful story to tell. We hosted the games. We're still inspired by that. Going back to the schools, these athletes who are preparing for London and who are moving forward will also bring more stories to those schools all across Canada. So working with the school system to increase that I think is something we welcome through some of the education programs that happen with our Olympic committee.

Chris, you might want to speak a little bit more about that.

12:05 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer and Secretary General, Canadian Olympic Committee

Christopher Overholt

It's absolutely the right question. We believe very strongly that sports, elite sport in particular, is an absolute laboratory for leadership. You don't need to look any further than a little way down the desk to see the type of leadership that Charmaine has provided, not only within the sport community but in her everyday life. Mark Tewksbury is an outstanding example of that and of course is our chef de mission for London.

The work the Canadian Olympic Committee does in the way that you describe, Mr. Armstrong, is so very important. We have a responsibility first, as you point out, to deliver excellence on the field of play, and that is certainly our mandate with sport as our core business. But as Carol and I discuss all the time, our athletes as leaders in Canada are absolutely a touchstone for Canadians. Where sport is our core business and where our Canadian Olympic team is our brand, athletes sit at the very core of that, and that is the absolute emotional connection for Canadians.

That is the touchstone for pride, a symbol of excellence. And as Charmaine points to, that can transcend sport. It can be about educational excellence. It can be about excellence in business. There are so many wonderful things we can point to around what our athletes stand for.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

How much time?

12:10 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Pierre Nantel

Actually, you're just done. Sorry about that.

I yield the floor to Andrew Cash.

Thank you, Mr. Overholt.

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to all of you for being here.

It's an honour for us to listen to you, Madame Crooks, and to have you here, your excellency.

It's going to take great discipline for me not to just want to talk about the Nordiques and Forsberg and Sundin. Being from Toronto, I want to tell you that we were Nordiques fans and we had to keep it a little quiet.

12:10 p.m.

President, Canadian Olympic Committee

Marcel Aubut

They're going to come back. Don't worry.

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

I wanted to get into a bit more of the financial realities that face amateur athletes.

I just want to say as well that it is an interesting observation that Olympic athletes and amateur athletes at the highest levels also show great community activism and leadership in a way one would like to see professional athletes mirror, and which oftentimes they don't, so I think that's a great testament to the commitment of Olympic athletes and elite athletes at the amateur level. You and all of your colleagues are deeply appreciated, not just for your athletic prowess, but for your commitment to our community of Canada.

On the subject of the funding, which of course all of this activity flows from, I want to get a sense, first of all, of what the mix is between the private corporate sponsorship and the public investment.

12:10 p.m.

President, Canadian Olympic Committee

Marcel Aubut

It's difficult to say exactly, because, as you know, there is Sport Canada and, through OTP, that is our best partner as far as generating the money goes. As for generating it in the sports sector, it's our duty, our job, and all of that. There is no secret here. This country does a lot with not so much. We are not equivalent yet with the G-8 countries as far as supporting our high-performance athletes is concerned. We are not there yet.

What is most encouraging, though, is that for a few years, since the preparation for Vancouver, I would say, people have decided to make sports part of our culture by investing more, and we got the results right away, which means that the money gave results. That is not the case in many other areas when you invest money, as you know. We all know that.

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

It's the federal government that's the main one.

12:10 p.m.

President, Canadian Olympic Committee

Marcel Aubut

As for the ratio, most of the money comes from the government, but I would say that we could reach 50% of what the government brings as far as the additional sponsorship goes.

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Okay. Do you have some kind of code of ethics or code of conduct when you are going through your list of potential corporate sponsors?

12:10 p.m.

President, Canadian Olympic Committee

Marcel Aubut

We are very demanding. First of all, we have an opportunity to deal with the biggest corporations in this country, and usually they are very well equipped as far as a code of ethics is concerned.