With all the recent hand-wringing over spiralling Olympic costs and over-runs and stupid budget decisions made by elected officials who should know better, one of the most positive aspects of hosting the Games next winter has been woefully overlooked.
Say what? It's true. While our upcoming global sports orgy has been the source of great angst within the community of late - and rightfully so - most of us have been so focused on the negatives that we've totally ignored the human factor.
Meaning? Simple: we're getting a whole bunch of interesting new residents around here. And they're all coming for the same reasons. Coaches, technicians, physicians, scientists, sports professionals of all stripes: they've all quietly migrated to Sea To Sky country over the last few years and months in an effort to better prepare Canadian athletes for top-level performances come February 2010. The interesting thing is that most of them have dragged their families along for the adventure.
And that little factoid, I believe, has the potential to completely change the social fabric in the region. Think about it. While some of these eminent sport pros will no doubt return to their home of origin post Games, many of them have been so taken with their temporary West Coast postings that they're tempted to put down permanent roots here once the Olympic parade moves to its next destination.
Consider the case of Robert Joncas. With a Master's degree in kinesiology, and an artisan's obsession for detail, the operations manager for the Canadian snowboard squad is a vital cog in the team's Olympic preparations. Whether it's developing a more efficient base material for his riders' boards, or tweaking a binding component, or simply sourcing a new, more aerodynamic racing suit for Canadian athletes, Joncas's role within the team is a direct reflection of Canada's new fascination with winning medals on the international stage. "This position wouldn't exist without the Own The Podium program," Joncas explains. "In fact, it wouldn't have even been considered a few years ago. But if we're serious about being the best in the world, this is a necessary first step. Given our goals with 2010, we have to find all the 'little things' the other teams aren't doing to give us that extra edge come race day." And that, he says with a smile, is what his job really entails.
Joncas has been involved with elite sports for most of his life. A former semi-pro hockey player - his modest physical stature masks a will of steel and a hard-edged toughness that allowed him to compete with much bigger and stronger opponents - Robert grew up in the little town of Newport on Gaspe's Baie-des-Chaleurs. "Because of my size," he explains, "I had to learn to work harder than my rivals. I also had to learn to work smarter." A trait, he notes, that has served him well in the three years he's worked with the Canadian Snowboard Team.