News that Chris Rudge is leaving his post as head of Canada’s Olympic movement is cause for reflection.
While the timing might be right for Rudge himself, his foresight and leadership will be sorely missed as Canadians rediscover their affection for an illustrious Olympic tradition.
One thing’s a given, we should all celebrate what Chris Rudge has been able to achieve during his more than seven-year tenure.
He came to the position of CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee as a relative unknown in the world of high performance sport.
A former pro lacrosse player and high school teacher turned business executive, Rudge presided over halcyon days for the Games and the national consciousness.
On board in Prague in 2003 to guide the bid process when Vancouver acquired the 2010 Olympics, Rudge then secured additional public funding for both winter and summer sports and doggedly defended the ideals of Own the Podium.
No longer was it good enough for Canada to just take part in the Games, it must be a competitive nation.
There was, according to Rudge, a belief that the rich province of Ontario had to make a more significant contribution to Canada’s sporting prospects. His support for and initiative behind Toronto winning the right to host the 2015 Pan American Games should not be overlooked.
The building of new infrastructure and a refreshed Canadian sports system is well underway thanks to Chris Rudge.
But it was the less tangible message that he delivered that is his ultimate legacy. Rudge was able to convince us that the Olympics and Canadian Olympic athletes are worthy of our respect and attention.
“Our kids,” is how he refers to the Olympians. “It should always be about and for the athletes and everything else should flow from that.” Rudge made sure that our Olympic heroes like Alex Baumann, Marnie McBean and Sylvie Bernier were put in positions where they could direct succeeding generations of hopefuls.
In short, Rudge had faith in the Olympic ideal if properly translated to Canadians. In that sense he was a visionary with a plan to get us back to where we belonged.
He never won a gold medal on his own but Chris Rudge was the leader who helped show our athletes the way.
– Gemini Award winner and author Scott Russell is the Host of CBC Sports Weekend seen Saturday afternoons. A 20-year CBC Sports veteran, he has covered a variety of professional and amateur sports including nine Olympic games and numerous world championships.