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‘Own the Podium’ to keep its name

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The name Own the Podium is staying after all, according to newly minted chairman John Furlong. The new board has met to discuss the future, and decided to keep the name as is.

CEO Alex Baumann defended the decision to reporters last week. "One of the reasons I came back from Australia in 2007 was the renewed focus on excellence in this country," he told Canwest last week.

Of all the things that came under fire during the 2010 Games the decision to name a supplementary high performance funding program "Own the Podium" met with the most scorn. International athletes openly mocked the concept and said they were going to borrow the podium for the next two weeks (Loan the Podium) after which point Canada could have it back. Media commentators - after a disappointing first week for medals - also dubbed the program "Groan the Podium."

There were also a few detractors in the Canadian camp, like speed skater Denny Morrison. Morrison said the decision to limit the number of international training days at the Richmond Oval made it impossible to measure himself against international competitors, which he said was part of the reason why he came up short.

Others pointed to the number of DNFs and last place finishes. Canadians put everything on the line to go for the win, and as a result passed up on the legitimate chance to place in some events.

Others wondered if the name Own the Podium was too boastful, too unsportsmanlike, or even too un-Canadian - we're supposed to be the nice guys after all, humble in victory and graceful in defeat. Did we put too much pressure on the athletes, or raise expectations too high for spectators?

After the Games, former Own the Podium CEO Roger Jackson defended the decision to name the $117 million program Own the Podium, suggesting that it was important to change the attitude that Canadian athletes and fans have about winning.

"It was interesting that the terminology of Own the Podium was interpreted by some as being arrogant, almost like you were going to fall on your face if you didn't achieve your goal, and from our standpoint we never intended it to be that," Jackson told Pique. "It was an aspiration, that we were going for gold. It was simply a rallying cry for everyone to really try to do their best.

"We also needed clear goals and we wanted everybody to focus on a particular target, otherwise we would have nothing to aim for and no accountability along the way."

Canada finished the Games third in the overall medal tally, but with 14 gold medals - the most of any nation in the history of the Winter Games - 2010 was Canada's best Winter Games ever.

However, Jackson said the new board would likely consider a name change, now that the program has a long-term commitment of $33 million a year. Chris Rudge, then CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee, also suggested that a name change may be in the cards.

And while a name change is possible in the future, the program could be a lot safer going forward with more modest goals in mind - a top-12 placing in London in 2012 (one better than our 13 th place in Beijing) and what is expected to be a top three placing in 2014. Baumann said in May that he wouldn't set a hard target for Sochi in 2014 until he has had a chance to review the 2010 Games and meet with national sports organizations.

"Going into London we won't be the number one country in the world," Baumann told CanWest, "but we should have that aspiration component that we should strive to be the best we can be."

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