Field of Play: We should always laud Canadian Olympians | Sports | CBC Sports CBC Sports - Sochi 2014

OlympicsField of Play: We should always laud Canadian Olympians

Posted: Wednesday, May 21, 2014 | 08:09 PM

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Canadian bobsledders Heather Moyse, left, and Kaillie Humphries won their second consecutive Olympic gold medals at the Sochi Olympics in February. (Chris Young/Canadian Press) Canadian bobsledders Heather Moyse, left, and Kaillie Humphries won their second consecutive Olympic gold medals at the Sochi Olympics in February. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

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When it comes to Canadian Olympians, we should think about becoming more consistent celebrants.

The thing about the Olympics is that they only come around every so often.

The reality being several months and hundreds and hundreds of days pass between editions of the Games and the torch is, admittedly for a time, completely extinguished.

But, that doesn't mean that the Olympics, or the Olympians themselves, cease to exist.

Nor should it lead to a situation where the concept of the Olympics completely fades from our mind's eye only to be trotted out again two or four years down the line when it's both timely and convenient for us to be fans of the great spectacle.

For people who follow the athletes and their respective journeys to the summit of sport, and believe that those stories of winning, losing and struggle have value to our larger society, it behooves us to continue the momentum in this country.

In other words, perhaps we should think about becoming more consistent celebrants.

That's why the upcoming "Celebration of Excellence" which will unfold over the course of three days nationwide and culminate in Calgary in June, sparks some consideration.

There will be a "Heroes Tour," a "Parade of Champions," and a "Hall of Fame Gala" in the Stampede City, and while these events are billed loftily, the ambitions for them are more grassroots in nature.

"Our athletes embody the Olympic spirit and all that it represents," says Chris Overholt, the CEO/Secretary General of the Canadian Olympic Committee who is spearheading the organization of festivities.

"Canadian fans generally and our marketing partners specifically, have come to understand just how powerful and important that can be, both in their lives and for their businesses"

Indeed, the more than 200 Olympians and Paralympians who will take part in the celebration in the wake of Sochi will be formally recognized in the House of Commons, make numerous school and hospital visits, and be feted at a lavish  gala evening which is expected to raise millions of dollars for the Canadian Olympic Foundation.

The number of corporations who have come to support the Canadian Olympic effort in recent years is unprecedented.

"It's critical that we focus our business in this way," Overholt stresses.  "Our partners expect to be able to tell Olympic stories year round and to leverage their association 12 months a year. To do this, we need to be advocates for our athletes at all times, not just every two to four years."

The same connection is envisioned for the Olympians with what appears to be a growing number of supporters in the general public.  The Sochi Games were the most consumed Olympics across all platforms in Canadian history, exceeding even the Vancouver 2010 experience.

Increasing the bond

The challenge now is to cement the increasing bond between the idols and their would-be disciples.

"Celebrations of excellence are important because they give young people an up close and personal experience with their Olympic heroes," says Kyle Shewfelt, a gold medal gymnast from the 2004 Athens Games who will be inducted into Canada's Olympic Hall of Fame in Calgary.

"Every single Olympian was inspired by an Olympian who came before them so just imagine the impact! The athletes work so hard in preparation for an Olympic Games and it's important to show them how much we value their courage to put it all on the line for Canada."

Courage and heroes are interesting words to be using in association with sports men and women who pursue a path of their own choosing. But the athletes are steadfast in the belief that they have a quantifiable value that needs to be brought closer to home and translated for more people who occasionally follow their exploits.

"During the Olympics Canadians get to know the athletes through a television or a computer screen," says two-time gold medallist Heather Moyse of bobsleigh.  "I think parades and celebrations like these are important for reminding everyone that we are real people making their dreams that much more achievable."

At a time when studies show that Canadian youth is scoring a failing grade when it comes to engaging in sport and physical activity, the sentiment expressed by athletes like Moyse and Shewfelt is noteworthy.

In its annual assessment, Active Healthy Kids Canada found that Canadian children stack up poorly when compared to their contemporaries in other less economically endowed countries.

Too little playing

Once again it's a case of too little playing and competing, and too much time spent spectating in front of video devices and tablets.  The need for physically successful and healthy role models like the Olympians who live next door to be thrust centre stage is greater than it's ever been in our country's history.

"That connection is made real in a moment when you have a chance to see them in person, talk to them about their experiences, and understand their story," says Overholt.  "It's these types of events that allow for that one-on-one experience that we believe can be so powerful, inspirational and in some cases, with our children, life altering."

The timing is right in every way for the "Celebration of Excellence."

There has been a sufficient period to reflect on victories won in Russia including the memorable moments created by hockey players, skiers, curlers, sliders and skaters.

Now is the chance to bring what happened on distant fields of play and make those achievements real in the confines of our own backyard.

It's also an opportunity to take the creators of what has been an all too fleeting excitement, put those people on a float and recognize them for the national treasures that they are.

"It's time to connect with those who've supported and cheered us on throughout our Olympic journeys," figures Heather Moyse.

"And besides, who doesn't like a parade?!"

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