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Feature - First Person: Ken Read

Building momentum to 2010


By G.D. Maxwell

Two days after the International Olympic Committee met in Prague and awarded Vancouver the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Pique NewsMagazine had a chance to speak to Ken Read, President of Alpine Canada. During a rambling conversation, he spoke of what the Olympics might mean to Canadian alpine skiing as well as other issues.

Pique: Tell me what hosting the 2010 Olympics is likely to mean for alpine skiing in Canada?

Read: What the Olympics does is bring focus. We’ve been trying to do that the past year with our Podium 2010 Strategic Plan. We’re trying to transform our entire system so that we’re not just focusing funding at the top, we’re driving it down into the system for development. We’re going to try to do this on a sustainable basis so that year-over-year, we continue to produce.

What we’re seeing now is the other half of that equation fall into place. Governments seem to need an endpoint like the Olympics to focus on. Now they’re driven by having this in our country. But you’ve got to keep that in context. The amount of money we get from government is very small. We’d really love to see it get up to, at a minimum, 15 per cent. Currently it sits at nine per cent. The rest comes from the corporate sector, which is a good thing. We’re not as dependent on government, which, until just recently, had been slipping for a decade but seems to have turned a corner and headed back up.

The Olympics help give a lot of existing and potential commercial partners focus too. We, again, are in a fortunate position. We had quite a few who were committed regardless of the bid’s outcome, so this is a windfall to those who were already dedicated to our effort. We’re pretty sure we’ll be able to welcome a few more.

Pique: What else are you hoping might come out of this?

Read: Well, it’ll mean more World Cup races in Canada because there will be all the test events for the Games.

And we’re planning on it providing a legacy... a real legacy. We’ve been struggling for 15 years to find a legacy out of the ’88 games. We’re only just now making it happen. There has been no legacy in alpine skiing from 1988 because the alpine ski venue was a straight user-pay affair and was actually more expensive to use than other venues.

None of the snow sports venues – snowboarding, freestyle, cross-country, biathlon, alpine –really had a legacy specifically put into place to ensure low-cost access.