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2010 Olympics Business News for the Vancouver and Whistler regions of British Columbia. Plus, Alberta, the rest of Canada, Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, Montana & California

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Canada's Struggling Athletes Need Help

Keep your money in Canada and
get it working for Canadian athletes.


It's easy and relatively cheap to align with athletes striving for an Olympic win, and raise your company's visibility at the same time.


Canada is quickly approaching 2010, and contrary to what Olympics sponsors lead us to believe regarding the level of financial support they provide to amatuer athletes, the truth is, they don't do nearly enough.

Many Canadian athletes are in dire straights and struggling.

Here's what Olympic kayaker Adam van Koeverden told the CBC in November 2007; "You don't want to make your athletes starve and keep your athletes starving. Training needs to be treated like a career. If you want me to go and compete with the world's best, then I've got to be able to train like the world's best, and I don't think I should have to live in poverty in order to accomplish my goals."

The truth is, Olympics sponsors like RBC focus primarily on elite athletes who compete in high visibility popular sports, and the rest are left struggling in the background. Our government and Olympics organizations are also primarily interested in only those athletes that might win gold. To them, a second, third, or fourth place finish doesn't bring enough visibility to make it worth their while.

If it did, Canadian athletes wouldn't be struggling financially.

Nike, a past Olympics sponsor said,
"You don't win Silver. You lose Gold."

John Furlong, CEO VANOC stated in January of 2006 that if an athlete doesn't win a medal they are "empty handed."


Apparently Furlong dismisses the official creed of the Games, which is, "The most important thing is not to win, but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well."

Based on statements from these people, companies, and organizations, and from their economic centric perspective, anything less than a gold medal finish is not worth pursuing.

Fortunately for all the amateur athletes out their doing their best, second, or even last place is worth more economically than elitist Olympics organizations and their partners know, especially now in this era of social media and internet communication.

In fairness to VANOC and sponsors like RBC, I fully understand why you don't have time for anything less than a podium finish. VANOC for example is so overwhelmed putting out fires and managing overrun costs that the last thing they have time for are amateur athletes who don't bring global visibility to their table. And sponsors like RBC, HBC, and Rona have shareholders to answer to. Shareholders only think of profit, and if you're not number one, they bail out, sell their shares, and move on.

We get it guys, but it's a new era.


Fortunately, small and midsize business owners are starting to realize that there is an easy way to create an alliance with amateur athletes and trade off of each other's resources and strengths. Some of them, for years, have cultivated relationships that allow everyone to win.

There is nothing at all wrong with striving for first place, but in these very challenging and competitive times it pays to be realistic.


Some of Canada's more progressive amateur athletes in the Olympic race use their websites to boost their visibility and generate revenue.

And some of Canada's more progressive small companies help amateur athletes compete at Olympic sport events.

I wrote in this blog way back in early 2006 that amateur athletes need financial and emotional support, and it's goes double today. It's tough out there on the road. Thanks to the internet it is now possible for small and midsize companies to cross-promote with amateur athletes of all ranks and styles. It is good for them, good for you and good for Canadian sport to establish relationships with these aspiring athletes when they need you the most.

One Canadian Olympic athlete in particular has done an incredible job of working with small businesses. Olympic gold medal ski champion, Kristi Richards, for years created alliances with The Beanery Coffee Company, Sumac Ridge Winery, and Penticton Toyota. They helped her when she needed it the most - before she won an Olympic medal.

Here's an abbreviated quote from Kristi in a press release dated May 17, 2007 from Youth in Philanthropy; “My community was behind me 100 per cent. It was awesome to see them come together to raise funds. They were part of my dream and part of my success.”

Summerland residents and local businesses were “awesome” at creating fundraising opportunities and supporting me. Equipment, coaching, airfare, dietary supplements, physiotherapy, sports’ psychologists – the list of expenses an athlete incurs is almost endless” It costs a lot – especially when you’re just breaking into the national and international level. If we recognize potential in local athletes and we want to see them on the podium, then we as a community need to support them financially.


Cross-promotion is relatively easy. The good news is that you can work with amateur athletes by providing them with funds and by showcasing them on your business website. When you create strategies in partnership with athletes to raise their visibility, it helps them generate revenue to train for 2010.

Think of it like helping a local community or Junior A Hockey Team that has a shot at the Stanley Cup in two years.

It creates a win/win/win for everyone by not only helping a Canadian athlete reach an Olympic goal, it also raises the visibility of your company, and it gives Canada a leg up in the overall rankings.

However, don't confuse "struggling amateur athletes who need your help" with the elite athletes already on the Olympic podium. When an athlete wins an Olympic gold medal, and they have a bit of business savvy, they usually no longer need your financial assistance, and that is completely fair when you keep everything in perspective. Plus, Olympic organizations and sponsors have medal winning athletes so tied up in stringent agreements that they couldn't talk to you even if they wanted. Gold medal Olympians have bigger opportunity working with large corporations. If you don't align with them early, you miss the boat.

Seek out young struggling athletes who are literally living day to day on incomes stretched thin. Seek out the young men and women who are trying to figure out how they are going to afford to buy new equipment or pay for physiotherapy or travel for the next few months. They can't train if they don't have the gear or are in constant pain.

For all the noise Olympic organizations and sponsors make, they don't even come close to sharing enough of their wealth with up-and-coming athletes. Many athletes drop out due to financial stress.

Olympic sponsors are mainly interested in gold medal winners with endorsement cachet, or those who are at least hovering on the fringe of success. Big time sponsors are not usually interested in long shots, and unfortunately, silver and bronze winners hardly count any more thanks to aggressive sponsors and campaigns like "Own the Podium," which when you think about it is more like "Own the Athlete."

Many people think that the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee, or the International Olympic Committee provide adequate funds for all young struggling athletes. Well in some cases they do, but after administration fees not nearly enough financial support gets channeled to Canadian athletes. In fact, the profit the IOC makes goes to athletes in countries that are not as well off as Canada. Which is fine because without those funds we might never have experienced the Jamaican Bobsled Team or Eddy the Eagle. (Actually, IOC profit goes to athletes in countries struggling to survive, but I wanted to leverage a bit of Rick Mercer-styled sarcasm to illustrate that the money does not stay in the host country -- sorry Jamaica and England.) Most people do not have a clue that the profit Olympic organizations will make in Canada won't necessarily stay in Canada. And it is exactly why young Canadian athletes need your help, and why they need it today more than ever.

Recently, in January of 2008, Olympic organizations asked small business owners to contribute $5,000 each to help up-and-coming amateur athletes in the 2010 Olympics race. Again though, your $5K contribution will also cover administration costs for a top heavy organization that wastes money on frivolous expenses.

If you want to make sure your Canadian dollars are spent on Canadian athletes and not siphoned off to cover "administration fees," you have to get directly involved with the athlete. Skip the middleperson.

Don't count on overworked VANOC or the under funded COC, or especially an organization like the IOC who are guilty of bribery, fraud and corruption to manage your money responsibly. The IOC is not your friend, nor are they Vancouver/Whistler's or Canada's friend. At best they should be regarded as arms-length alliances. Think of them more like a bushy-haired Don King-type boxing promoter looking out for their interests first. If Olympics organizations and their sponsors like RBC took care of athletes like they purport, athletes wouldn't have to beg like binners in Vancouver. Their "Johnny-come-lately" request for your contribution is vulgar.

Don't let Furlong lead you astray. The IOC and all the large corporate sponsors like Visa and NBC who sold billions in advertising to 4 billion viewers during the Athens Summer Games in 2004 left Greece with a $12 billion dollar debt. With friends like that who needs enemies? Three months after the Games in Athens Furlong came back to Vancouver and told a banquet room full of business people (about 800) at a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon that Athens was a success. Success for whom? Each Greek household is now on the hook for almost $78,000 US each. It will take generations to pay off.

The IOC and large corporations take little responsibility when a community staggers under the cost of hosting an Olympic event, and on top of this insult, athletes quietly struggle. The last three Olympic events created huge deficits and did very little for each region regarding foreign capital investment or to boost tourism. Surely all three of these countries can't be inept. The reality is that the problem is higher on the food chain.

Unfortunately, there is serious disconnect between Olympic organizations and the Canadian public. If these organizations spent less time and money harassing small and midsize businesses, like the Olympia Restaurant, they would have more money to support athletes. Instead they hire lawyers to squander our tax dollars and divide the community.

If you want to do the right thing, don't count on the guys from the "Good Old Boys" club, instead create relationships with athletes on a one-to-one bases. Don't forget too, to support your neighborhood sports teams. When was the last time you bought jerseys for the local hockey or soccer team? Or maybe contributed a little cash to the junior snowboard or skate stars in training? These young people need your help. Contact their coaches and trainers. Keep your money in Canada and keep it working for our aspiring athletes.

We all know VANOC wants to "Own the Podium." Unfortunately though the Canadian government woefully under funds sport in this country. They recently decided to give a small stipend to medal winners, which is great, but think about it. It's after the fact and it does absolutely nothing to help athletes struggling to get to the podium. Once again they are awarding the elite. The Olympics business model is outdated and broken.

If you want it done right you have to do it yourself.

Get in the Games & Enhance the SPIRIT!!

Not sure where to start? Email me . . .


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Own the Podium?

The official creed (guiding principle) of the Olympics is a quote by the founding father of the modern day Games Baron de Coubertin. He said, "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

The Olympic motto consists of three Latin words Citius, Altius, Fortius, which means, "Swifter, Higher, Stronger." The 1924 motto is meant to encourage athletes to embrace the Olympic spirit and perform to the best of their individual abilities.

No where does it imply that winning the most gold medals for your country is part of the agenda. In fact it implies exactly the opposite.

The IOC maintains that it doesn't actively encourage countries to collectively win the most gold medals, but on the other hand they also don't institute anything to ensure that the Games are not turned into corporate money grabs.

In fact, IOC sponsorship and partnership business models encourage a win-at-all-costs mentality. It is the reason they have doping, fraud and bribery scandals.

The IOC invites young people to compete in the Olympics using the original Creed & Motto. But when it comes to delivering on the promise they fall incredibly short.

The Olympics today isn't as much about sport as it is about money and profit.

Priorities changed over the years and so too should their Creed & Motto.

If athletes go for the gold, and the IOC goes for the gold, and corporate sponsors go for the gold, and governments go for the gold, and considering that you will have to foot the bill for their gold, why should you be edged out of the race?

Move to the starting line.

Own the Podium?
or
Own Your Home?











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