Double Threat Clara Hughes ROCKS!

Clara Hughes, an Olympic champion speedskater, cyclist and humanitarian activist, has been named Canada’s flag-bearer for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games. Ingrid Paul, a Dutch native who is a coach with the Canadian long-track team, revealed the flag-bearer’s identity via Twitter. “Clara will carry the flag for Canada into the stadium. Good choice,” she said in Dutch.

The 37-year-old Winnipeg native, who now makes her home in Glen Sutton, Que., is Canada’s second most decorated Olympian with five medals. She is the defending long-track champion in the 5,000 metres and a silver medallist in the team pursuit.

The official announcement was set for later Friday. A Speedskating Canada spokesman said she could neither confirm or deny the flag-bearer’s identity. The opening ceremonies are Feb. 12.

Hughes is the sixth Canadian speedskater to be an Olympic flag-bearer. She joins Catriona Le May Doan (2002), Sylvie Daigle (1992), Gaetan Boucher (1984), Ralph Olin (1964) and Gordon Audley (1952). Hockey player Daniele Goyette carried the Maple Leaf at the opening ceremonies of the 2006 Turin Games.

Hughes is the only Canadian athlete to win medals at both the Summer and Winter Games. She is an Officer of the Order of Canada and received the International Olympic Committee’s sport community award. The Vancouver Games will be Hughes’ fifth Olympics. She won two bronze medals at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games in cycling and also competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She qualified as a speedskater for the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City and won bronze in the 5,000 metres.

Four years ago in Turin, she donated $10,000 of her own money to the humanitarian group Right to Play, this at a time when the Canadian Olympic Committee did not give cash prizes for medals. Hughes has gone full circle in her career. She fell in love with speedskating as a teenager watching the 1988 Calgary Olympics. She skated for a year, then switched to cycling.

Away from the rink, Hughes does extensive work with Right to Play and speaks out on environmental issues. “I want to stay connected to humanity and contribute to the human condition and try to make it a little better maybe,” Hughes said in a recent interview with The Canadian Press. “That’s always been a goal of mine and I feel like as an athlete I have this incredible platform to try and make a difference for people.”

Hughes follows figure skater Brian Orser (1988 Calgary Olympics) and 800-metre runner Abby Hoffman (1976 Montreal Olympics) as a flag-bearer on home soil.

Olympic History & Statistics

Just a bit of background for you on the history of the modern Olympic Games: Pierre Frédy, Baron de Coubertin, (1863-1937) a French aristocrat, educator and athlete, viewed sport as integral to the development of character. He strongly believed that sport’s contribution could transcend nations and proposed a revival of the ancient Greek games as a modern elite international sporting event. He founded the International Olympic Committee in Paris in 1894 and two years later the first Olympic Summer Games of the modern era were held in Athens, Greece.

The spirit of the Olympic Movement is reflected in the 3 pillars of Sport, Culture and Sustainability. Sport has the power to educate, manifest change and bring people together. Culture refers to the wonderful diversity of the human experience. Canada is home to many cultures, each with its own history, traditions, values, spiritual beliefs and language. Our ability as Canadians to celebrate diversity is one of our greatest strengths, and earns us respect around the world. Sustainability encompasses our objectives to manage the social, environmental and economic impact and opportunities of the Games in ways that will create lasting benefits. For example, the Southeast False Creek Olympic Village project that has transformed a former industrial brown-field into a showcase for sustainable living.

There will be 17 days of Olympic Games from February 12 to 28, 2010. 15 sports will be represented including: Alpine Skiing; Biathlon; Bobsleigh; Cross-Country Skiing; Curling; Figure Skating; Freestyle Skiing; Ice Hockey; Luge; Nordic Combined; Short Track Speed Skating; Skeleton; Ski Jumping; Snowboard; Speed Skating. Nine competition venue sites in Vancouver and Whistler. 86 medal events in total.

The history of the Paralympic Games dates back to 1948, when Sir Ludwig Guttmann organized a sports competition for English World War II veterans with spinal cord-related injuries. Four years later, competitors from the Netherlands joined these games. Later, Olympic-style games for athletes with mobility impairments were organized in Rome in 1960 and are today considered the first Summer Paralympic Games. The inaugural Winter Paralympic Games were held in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden in 1976.

In 2003, the International Paralympic Committe(IPC) adopted a vision statement that reflects the ultimate aim of the Paralympic Movement and a mission statement that formulates the long-term goals of the Movement and the universalizing role of Paralympic sport. Their mission: To enable Paralympic Athletes to achieve sporting excellence, and to inspire and excite the world. Their motto: “Spirit in Motion” expresses the inspirational character of the movement, as well as the elite performance and strong will of every Paralympian. The spirit of the movement is to contribute to a better world for all people with a disability.

There will be 10 days of Paralympic Games from March 12 to 21. Five sports will be represented including: Alpine Skiing; Biathlon; Cross-Country Skiing; Ice Sledge Hockey; Wheelchair Curling. Four competition venue sites. Snow events in Whistler: Alpine Skiing; Biathlon and Cross-Country Skiing. Ice events in Vancouver: Ice Sledge Hockey; Wheelchair Curling. 64 medal events in total.

How big are the Games? The Vancouver 2010 Winter Games has been designated a “Mega Event” by the Federal Government and as such, will be the first mega-event in Canada in the post-9/11 era. They will test our security and law enforcement agencies,
who will have to balance security requirements and civil liberties.

There will be:
• 5,500 Olympic Games athletes and officials
• 1,350 Paralympic Games athletes and officials
• 80+ countries participating in Olympic Winter Games
• 40+ countries participating in Paralympic Winter Games
• 1.8 million event tickets sold
• 10,000 accredited media representatives
• 3 billion worldwide television viewers
• 250,000 or more visitors
• 55,000 workforce
• 25,000 volunteers
• $10 billion in economic benefits.

Cultural Olympiad

Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad is a celebration of the contemporary imagination. From artistic collaborations that fuse contrasting perspectives to emerging talents re-inventing the voice of contemporary Canada, the Cultural Olympiad has something for everyone. Working in close partnership with the creative community, this amazing showcase of Canadian and international arts and popular culture will feature an unparallelled variety of music, dance, theatre, visual arts, film, outdoor spectaculars and digital media experiences, as remarkable and diverse as the planet itself.

The Cultural Olympiad has so many exciting events planned during the course of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. They have also incorporated a digital edition, named CODE. Individuals and cultures can connect in an instant. CODE harnesses digital power and plugs it into art, music, film and Canadian culture. It showcases mesmerizing digital work by national and international artists and invites audiences everywhere to interact and take part.

Whether people are able to participate in person, all around Vancouver or online right across the country and around the planet, everybody can: Connect. Create. Collaborate.

Own the Podium

I would like to introduce you to a collaborative project that is helping Canadian athletes be their very best on the world stage.

Own the Podium 2010 is a winter sport technical program designed to help Canada become the number one nation (total medal count) at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and to place among the top three nations (gold medal count) at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. The initiative is a partnership of Canada’s 13 winter national sport organizations, the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Canadian Paralympic Committee, Sport Canada and the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC). One-half of the $110 million in funding, which began in 2005, originates from the Government of Canada, through Sport Canada ($55 million). VANOC is raising the other half ($55 million) through corporate, provincial, territorial, and public support. Bell Canada is the founding corporate partner and the other corporate partners include General Motors of Canada, HBC, McDonald’s Canada, Petro-Canada, RBC Financial Group and RONA. Provincial and Territorial support are provided by the Governments of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Québec, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon. You can see the unprecedented jump in funding for our athletes and their sports in this comparison of funding since 2005. Comparatively, the Nordic Combined and Ski Jumping athletes are really drawing from a small pool of funding.

Own the Podium’s vision is for Canada to be a world leader in high-performance sport with a mission to lead the development of Canadian sports to achieve sustainable podium performances at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Here are the specific goals as outlined at the Own the Podium web site:

1. Podium Performance at Olympic and Paralympic Games
* Place first in the total medal count at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games
* Place in the top three in the gold medal count at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games

* Place in the top 12 nations in medal count at the 2012 Olympic Games
* Place in the top eight in the gold medal count at the 2012 Paralympic Games

2. System Development
Own the Podium with its partners will strengthen national policy, programs, the sport delivery system and commitment to excellence for winter and summer high-performance sport.

Own the Podium is an innovative and collaborative initiative without precedent in Canadian sport. It was created to bring together the key parties involved in leading and funding excellence in Canadian sport, with specific emphasis on achieving excellence at Summer and Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. Own the Podium makes recommendations to national funding parties on the amount of resources allocated to targeted winter and summer national sport organizations, Canadian Sport Centres, innovation and research, and other needed programs. Own the Podium also monitors the implementation of the targeted National Sport Organizations’ high-performance programs to ensure maximum performance results and intervenes where necessary.

Originally launched in 2005, Own the Podium 2010 was a national initiative supported by all of Canada’s winter sport organizations and major funding partners including Sport Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee and Vancouver 2010 – designed to help Canada’s winter athletes win the most number of medals at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, and to place in the top-three nations in the gold-medal count at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.

In 2006, this initiative was extended to support the nation’s targeted summer-sport federations through the creation of Road to Excellence.. The plan targeted a top-16 placing for Canada at the 2008 Games in Beijing, which Canadian athletes successfully achieved by finishing tied for 13th place in overall medals. The goal for the London 2012 Games is for a top-12 placing, and to finish in the top-eight nations at the 2012 Paralympic Games.

Today, both the winter and summer programs now operate under the name of Own the Podium.

Visit Own the Podium for much more information on how the program works and how it is helping Canadian athletes.

Olympic Countdown Begins

Today I begin my own, unofficial, countdown to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games ~ I leave of the 10th of February. It is now starting to sink in and is seeming a little more real.

I have been finding many helpful web sites and I want to share with you the different venues that will be used during the Olympics.

First up is the media centre. The Main Media Centre (MMC) for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games will be located within the Canada Place complex and the Vancouver Convention Centre on the city’s downtown waterfront. Canada Place will house the Main Press Centre, while the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) will be located in the Vancouver Convention Centre (West Building). Canada Place is the inspiring national landmark welcoming local residents, visitors and ships to the West Coast of Canada. Originally established as the site of the Canadian Pavilion at the Expo 86 World’s Fair, Canada Place is a legacy for the Canadian people and a vital economic engine. Immediately following the Fair, the pavilion space was converted into a world-class convention centre. Recognized worldwide, Canada Place’s iconic white roof resembles an ocean liner under full sail featuring five white sails made of Teflon-coated fibreglass.

The Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and the Opening Ceremony for the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games will be held in BC Place Stadium in downtown Vancouver. This will also be the site for nightly Victory Ceremonies presentations. BC Place Stadium will seat approximately 55,000 spectators for the Olympic and Paralympic Ceremonies and features the largest air-supported stadium roof in North America. The enclosed venue offers many advantages in addition to protection from winter weather, including an unprecedented opportunity to stretch the boundaries of ceremonies’ spectacle using state-of-the-art lighting, projection, sound and special effects technology.

The Olympic and Paralympic Village Vancouver is located on the southeast side of False Creek in Vancouver. With extraordinary views of the city’s downtown skyline and Coast Mountains, the Olympic and Paralympic Village Vancouver will feature newly constructed low- and mid-rise apartment buildings. With close proximity to the competition venues, athletes will be able to walk or take a short bus ride to the city’s shopping and entertainment districts and can enjoy the nightly Victory Ceremonies and cultural celebrations just moments away at BC Place.

The Richmond Olympic Oval is located on the banks of the Fraser River, 14 kilometres south of downtown Vancouver. Located in the northwest corner of Richmond, the Oval is across the river from the Vancouver International Airport and near Richmond city centre.

Cypress Mountain is located in Cypress Provincial Park, adjacent to the District of West Vancouver. The mountain is served by an excellent highway and offers spectacular views of Vancouver and its harbour. Cypress Mountain is the Official Freestyle Skiing (Aerials, Moguls & Ski Cross) and Snowboard (Half Pipe, Parallel Giant Slalom, and Snowboard Cross) Venue for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

The Whistler Sliding Centre will host the bobsleigh, luge and skeleton events. Some statistics about the courses:
Length (bobsleigh and skeleton) 1,450 metres
Length (men’s luge) 1,374 metres
Length (doubles and women’s luge) 1,198 metres
Elevation at top of track (men’s luge start) 938 metres
Elevation at low point of track 786 metres
Vertical drop 152 metres
Maximum track slope 20% at corner 2
Number of corners 16
Track access points 7