Championing Canada

Canadian Olympic Committee optimistic about Tokyo 2020

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games is still three years away but the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) has been preparing since two years before the Rio 2016 Summer Games.

“Games preparation is a five-year process,” said Andrew Baker, the COC’s Games director, and the man in charge of leading the massive logistical task of preparing the Canadian Olympic Team — more than 300 athletes — for the biggest sporting event in the world.

Initially, the Games operations team travelled to host city Tokyo for its first site visit, to get the lay of the land. It started building critical relationships with the local organizing committee, who will guide them through Japanese culture and help resolve any issues that might arise.

“I was struck right away by how efficient their operations are and how welcoming and supportive they are. It really reflects what we imagine Japanese culture to be. Having partners like that gives us peace of mind as we plan for the Games,” Baker said.

The COC has every reason to be optimistic. Team Canada had the best showing of any non-boycotted Games last year in Rio, where Canadian athletes clinched 22 medals, four of which are gold. These incredible results were powered by the success of female athletes and the meteoric rise of young talent, such as 16-year-old swimmer Penny Oleksiak, who won four medals at her first Games and Andre De Grasse, who sprinted his way to the podium three times.

Athletes vying for spots on the Canadian team will be spending more time in Tokyo over the coming three years to test the venues in competition and familiarize themselves with the local environment and culture.

Staff from the Tokyo Organising Committee and the COC visit the future site of the Olympic Village.

The COC admits that heat is the biggest challenge for its athletes, who are more accustomed to their frigid climates. Tokyo 2020 could be the warmest Games in history. Experts will be brought in to advise on coping strategies for the unfamiliar climate.

Meanwhile, the COC will rely on local partners such as the Embassy of Canada to Japan and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Japan to help set the athletes up for success. These partners will help the COC navigate the local culture and business customs by being their eyes on the ground, and engaging staff and members in what will be an unforgettable Olympic experience.

One thing Team Canada will need is an army of volunteers — the team behind the team as they like to call it — to support every aspect of operations, including communications, transportation, and hosting at the Canadian Olympic House. They will be reaching out to Canadians living in Japan a year before the Games to ask them to help out and bring important cultural knowledge to the team.

The Games of course are about the coming together of people from all nations and cultures and the COC is looking for ways to leave a bit of Canada behind in Japan.

As Andrew Baker explained, “everyone who has been to Tokyo, whether from the COC or the various sports, falls in love with the city. There is a lot of respect for Canada in Japan, so we want to use these Games to build a lasting legacy in the country.”

Photos: Canadian Olympic Committee

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