Opinions
Jen Grond/the Gauntlet

Canada gets pwned on the podium

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The Canadian Olympic Committee headed into the 2010 Vancouver games with high hopes. After utter disappointment in the medal standings at the 1976 Montreal summer games and the 1988 Calgary winter games, the COC took the bull by the horns after the announcement of Vancouver as host -- boldly claiming that Canada would own the podium in 2010.

Turns out "owning" the podium means getting half as many medals as the Americans.

After pledging five years ago that Canada would win more medals at the 2010 games than any other country, thereby "owning" the medal podium, at press time Canada has a scant 15 medals. This result would be merely embarrassing if not for two things -- the United States has more than twice as many medals as Canada despite making no podium ownership claim, and the "Own the Podium" initiative cost roughly $110 million. If Canada doubles its medal totals by the end of the games, which doesn't seem terribly likely, that's a price tag of about $4 million per medal. A first-place finish in the medal standings, based on the last few games, would take roughly 30 medals.

That's not even the biggest reason why "Own the Podium" was a monumentally bad idea.

Historically, Canada has not been an Olympic powerhouse. Discounting the Soviet boycott of the 1984 summer games, Canada's peak medal performance in any Olympics prior to the 1990s was 11 medals at the 1976 summer games -- corresponding with an uptick in amateur sports funding prior to the Montreal-hosted games. Oddly enough, Canada's place as a contender in many winter sports didn't get cemented until the 1994 Albertville games, as the country's peak performance prior to that was a whopping seven medals. The amateur sports onslaught came, in part, because of continuous funding increases due to the success of the 1988 Calgary Olympics -- the effects of which are still being felt today.

Athletes competing at the Olympics are under tremendous pressure -- often working day and night towards their goals while doing whatever they can to supplement their often meagre government sports funding. Adding on the pressure of performing before their home country is bad enough, but doing so while your Olympic committee is pledging to dominate the Olympics is ridiculous. Host countries kind of suck at the Olympics, perhaps for that very reason -- it's too much pressure on already-stressed athletes. Only a handful of nations have "owned" their home podiums, and those were countries like Norway, China and the United States who were already strong Olympic performers.

If the Canadian Olympic Committee is serious about owning the podium in the future, throwing money at the problem once won't solve it. The great Olympic leap forward following the 1988 Calgary games occurred because the games began a continual level of commitment towards Canadian amateur sports. The COC has to commit itself to the creation and maintenance of a sophisticated funding structure for amateur sports if they want to be seen as a world leader at the Olympics. If the Americans can do it, why can't we?

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Comments

Perhaps \"own the podium\" was not the correct title for their program, but never in the history of the Olympics have Canadians had more top 5 placements. It seems to have inspired more than stressed out the athletes, and it certainly has gotten the attention of the Canadian public. Anything that draws strongly negative and strongly positive feedback is usually a good device - kind of like a great piece of art.
I think the athletes are all heroes, regardless of where they place.

Fact - Canada will win the most gold medals at the 2010 Olympics.

That\'s the most first place finishes. You can have the most silver/bronze, we\'ll take the most winners, thank you very much.

Own the podium was a good program with an awful name. Nobody REALLY expected to win the most medals. However, we DO need to keep it up, because you can\'t erase generations of neglect in just a few years. Watch out in Sochi!

Be honest, if you had the chance of winning 1 gold medal or 3 medals of any other color, what would your choice be? Exactly. Canada has made history by winning the most gold medals of any Winter Olympics host country (nearest countries were Norway and USA at 10 each!). Canada has tied the the USSR and Norway for winning the most gold medals ever. If they win hockey gold they will be alone in gold medals won...EVER! Do you realize this? OTP has been an unqualified success.

Perhaps wait until the Olympics are finished to publsh such an article. Hard to make comments without waiting for all the facts to come in.

It\'s funny to read this now, as the \"scant\" 15 medals has now grown to 25, and will guarantee at least 26 after the gold medal hockey game tomorrow. If we get the gold there, Canada will hold the gold medal record for a Winter Games with 14. This means half of our medal haul is gold... I don\'t see that as being pwned in any way.

It\'s also funny that you complain about the fact the Own the Podium would cost about $4-million/medal at 30 medals, then near the end, you say that you can\'t just throw money at the problem just once... OTP is just one in a series of \"continuous funding increases due to the success of the 1988 [Games]...\" is it not? So which is it you have a problem with? You\'re very unclear on your viewpoint here.

Oh, and btw, don\'t forget that our southern neighbours who will win the overall medal count, have 10 times the population from which to draw their athletes... so overall, I think Canada did pretty good!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/olympic_games/vancouver_2010/8539912.stm

Canada HAS succeeded in a gold haul, despite throwing in the towel last week on their announced goal of winning the most total medals of any country. To say that the Olympics have been a disappointment isn\'t true - 13 or 14 gold medals is a great haul. But when you spend a ton of money in a one-shot attempt to \"own the podium,\" it\'s a bit wonky.

The true test of the program will Sochi. If the COC and its backers are truly committed to excellence in amateur sports, they\'ll try as hard (if not harder) to own the podium in Sochi as they have in Vancouver.

@ Leopard

> Perhaps wait until the Olympics are finished to publsh such an article. Hard to make comments without waiting for all the facts to come in.

No it\'s not. \"Journalists\" have to pass opinionated judgement as fact every day to tell us how we should feel about things. If the media didn\'t tell us to be proud of our athletes, or to fear the jihadists, we\'d have to start thinking for ourselves, and that would be bad.

Canada Pwned the podium. Ryan Pike must feel pretty foolish right about now. Only in North America do they do a total medal count to determine first place.

Even the IOC counts first Gold Medal finishes, then the first non-winner (Silver), then the 2nd non-winner (bronze). Why not start counting 4th place too? After all, there usually isn\'t much of a difference. In the world cup, only team gets to win. There are no medals for getting to the semi-finals.

It was always Canada\'s intention to trail in the first half.

Speaking of \"Own The Podium\"program, the federal government will doubles the amount of funding in this program, up to 22 million dollars. Holy batman!

http://calgary.ctv.ca/servlet/an/local/CTVNews/20100302/otp_program_100302/20100302?hub=CalgaryHome&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=CTVcalgary.ca

youre an idiot... by shear numbers do a comparison. Canada has 35 million people. do the math dude before you start shooting your proverbial mouth