VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada’s stated aim of winning a lion’s share of medals in their home Games has led to high excitement in the streets of Vancouver and hopes for a lasting legacy, Canadian Olympics chief Chris Rudge said on Friday.
“Excitement in this town is palpable,” Rudge told a news conference. “I have never seen this kind of excitement in the streets, everywhere around the city. Where have we ever seen medals celebrations with 20,000 to 25,000 people?”
Rudge said shedding the customary Canadian reserve with a bold ‘Own the Podium’ campaign may have made the difference.
“Maybe in some small way our talk of ‘Own the Podium’ and having a higher level of performance by Canadian athletes has also engaged Canadians,” he added. “I hope so and I hope that is a legacy of the Games.”
Canadian chef de mission Nathalie Lambert was a 12-year-old Montrealer when the 1976 Games were held there, and was in the Canadian speedskating team at the 1988 Calgary Olympics.
“It doesn’t compare to what we’re seeing here,” she said. “This is over the top, overwhelming.”
After six days of competition, Canada was fourth in the standings with seven medals, including three gold.
“I’ve seen six out of the seven medals that we have. At every site it’s like a hockey final game of the Stanley Cup,” Lambert said. “I think it really shows that Canada is changing the way it’s supporting amateur sports.”
Rudge said Canada had not given up hope of topping the medals list despite the fast U.S. start with 18 medals.
“We know that our best events are to come,” he said. “We’re still on track.”
Rudge said Canada, whose federal government is providing C$117 million ($112.6 million) in funding over a five-year period, designed its program after studying successful ones in the U.S., Australia and Europe.
“We don’t see this as a one-shot program. We tried to build this with legacy in mind, and to that extent the money that is committed to this program from the government and others is going to carry on in perpetuity,” he said.
Editing by Ed Osmond