CBC Sports

In one year, it's our chance to be great

Posted: Sunday, February 15, 2009 | 11:38 AM

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I'm in an airplane flying over the spectacular Olympic city of Vancouver.

I've made my way down the wondrous "Sea to Sky" highway from the mountain village of Whistler. I've seen the torch unveiled as well as the breathtaking racecourse where the downhill will be run. I've been inside the awesome Olympic Oval at Richmond and I've heard the people singing in the square, felt them gathering to join the expectant celebration.

I'm getting closer to the flame. We all are.

It will be a landmark Canadian moment — one that we dare not miss. In spite of all the critics and all of our collective worries, this is surely our chance to rise above the mediocrity and blossom as a country.

The Vancouver Olympics are now inevitable — count on it. And so I'm reminded of the simple words of one of my mentors: "Don't just be good," he urged. "Be great." I believe now is the time for Vancouver/Whistler and all of Canada to take this message to heart.

"The Olympic countdown has begun…Yahoo!" Former world champion figure skater Shae-Lynn Bourne uttered these words on a TV report from Whistler the other night. She was smiling ear to ear at the prospect of the Olympics returning to Canada. All athletes are. And these are the people that really matter in the Olympic mix. They are the skiers, skaters and sliders who dare to thrill us all and show us what is possible.

Speedskater Cindy Klassen, Canada's most decorated Olympian with six medals in her career, was talking with Peter Mansbridge of The National on the eve of the one-year-out celebration.

"You've done it all and you're recovering from major knee surgery. Why keep going?" Mansbridge asked.

Klassen didn't hesitate.

"I want to compete at home and hear Canadians cheering for me," she said.

Vancouver will be greatest Games

It's simple but it's true. Finally our wonderful athletes will be afforded the chance to excel on their own fields of play. They will, at long last, receive their just due. They will make us understand the full potential of this country's youth while revelling in the majesty of our own backyard.

I have no doubt that the Olympics in Vancouver/Whistler will be the greatest of all the Winter Games. They will even surpass Calgary, which still holds an exalted place in the hearts of athletes.

Why do I say this?

Vancouver is one of the world's most beautiful and liveable cities. Whistler is revered around the globe for the quality of its skiing. People dream of visiting both places, and with this in mind the Olympics in 2010 can not fail.

So the next time you hear someone whining about cost overruns and budget shortfalls or the extravagance of the whole Olympic process, keep this in mind.

We are less than a year away from an historic time in our country. Let's get on board and join in the effort to be, not just good or adequate Olympic hosts, but truly great.

Let's keep the home fires burning and get close to the flame, which will help see us through these troubled times.

The way I see it, the Olympics in Canada are the promise of better days to come.

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