Volume 96, Issue 97
Wednesday, April 2, 2003

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Vancouver Olympic bid has good chance, expert tells Western

By Christopher Hodge
Gazette Staff

Toronto may have proven unsuitable for the 2008 Summer Olympics bid, but Vancouver may still have a chance to win the 2010 Winter Olympics.

"Vancouver has a good shot at it," said David Leighton, the former president of the 1988 Calgary Olympic Games Organizing Committee.

Leighton was at Western on Friday as a special guest speaker for the 13th annual J. Howard Crocker Olympic Studies Lecture. Leighton focused on the commercialization of amateur sports.

"Saddest of all is the needs of the athletes have been overlooked in favour of the needs of the corporations," he said.

Leighton said it is imperative that future organizers of the Olympic Games are made aware of the changing atmosphere surrounding amateur sports. He cited the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games as one of the turning points in Games history, noting that, prior to these Games, organizers were not concerned with licensing deals.

According to Leighton, L.A. was the first city to capitalize on the idea, selling the television rights to their Games for an estimated $225 million. Eight years prior, the Lake Placid Olympic Organizing Committee sold the television rights for a mere $15.5 million, he said. In 1988, Leighton was able to negotiate a $309 million deal with the American Broadcasting Company.

"The Olympics changed from a sporting competition seen by a few, to an event seen by millions," Leighton said.

Leighton also noted the importance of assuring that the committee charged with organizing such a massive event is up to the task, adding he felt the inexperience of the organizers of the 1988 Calgary Games was a minor shortcoming during an otherwise successful event.

"One of the mistakes I made was allowing five vice-presidents [to] be appointed from the local community," he said.

Kevin Wamsley, chair of the Memorial Lecture Committee International Centre for Olympic Studies, said he was honoured to offer Western students a unique opportunity to learn more about the enormous undertaking behind the Olympic Games.

Christian Obonsawin, a first-year PhD candidate in the faculty of sports history, said she agreed with Leighton. "I think future Olympic organizing committees will need to be conscious of the effects of commercialization."

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