October 30, 2006

Starts and Finishes

Happy Halloween!

Today the COC announced that I have been appointed Assistant Chef de Mission for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Fortunately for our athletes, the job doesn't involve any cooking. The Chef de Mission is Sylvie Bernier, an Olympic champion and Assistant Chef for the 2006 winter Olympics. As spelled out in the Olympic Charter (PDF), Rule 38:

During the Olympic Games, the competitors, officials and other team personnel of each National Olympic Committee are placed under the responsibility of a chef de mission appointed by her National Olympic Committee and whose task, in addition to any other functions assigned to her by her NOC, is to liaise with the International Olympic Committee, the International Federations, and the Organizing Committee of the Games.

My job will be to, well, assist Ms. Bernier in this role. I am really, really excited and at the same time a little bit awed by the responsibility.

I will say, though, that I feel quite proud to have been selected. Sylvie did not name any of the other candidates that she considered for the position, but I am sure that there were a number of very worth candidates. I like to think that all of the volunteer work I have done and experience I have gained in the last six years counted in my favour. I think of this new job as the next level of my volunteer career in Canadian sport, and I am really looking forward to it.

On a sadder note, I've decided to go into blogging semi-retirement until after the Games.

Partly this is because of the increased time commitment that I will have to make as assistant chef. The job will require more time away from home and more hours of work, and those extra hours will be subtracted from the time I usually spend working on this blog.

More importantly, however, this change of status is also going to put new limits on what I can write about.

I want to make it perfectly clear that these limits are self-imposed. This is my own personal decision, and not something dictated to me by the COC. I have been very open about my blog with Sylvie Bernier, and I know that many people within the COC are aware of my identity. They have all been cautiously supportive of the idea that their new assistant chef is also a blogger, and I think that shows a remarkable degree of trust on their part.

There has always been a Do Not Write list on Now That's Amateur. There are things I Do Not Write about because I would be revealing information that has been entrusted to me, in confidence. There are things I Do Not Write about because I have to maintain an impartial stance on an issue. And there are things I Do Not Write about because to do so would undermine the consensus opinion of the groups that I serve as a volunteer.

In my new role I will be one of the leaders of the Canadian Olympic team. I will represent the team to the media, to the Canadian public, and to the rest of the world. Last week I came to the difficult realization that my Do Not Write list is about to get quite long. So long, in fact, that it excludes most of my favourite topics of discussion. I will still have plenty of opportunity to express my views, both publicly and privately, in places where it will have a concrete influence. The trade-off for that influence is that I cannot continue to make those expressions in this forum.

I also want to avoid the possibility that this blog, or my opinion, could become the centre of media attention because of my position. I think that would be regrettable. For the past two years I have tried to provide a different perspective on some of the stories of the day. I do not want my perspective to become the story of the day. Attention should be focused where it belongs, on the Olympic team itself.

As to what's going to happen in this space, I am not quite sure yet. At the very least, I will return when the Games are over, with new insight into the Olympic movement and the freedom to discuss it with you. In the meantime, I hope to turn this blog over to a team of guest contributors. Whether this comes to pass or not, I want to thank all of you who have been reading over the past two years. Blogging has broadened and deepened my understanding of amateur sport, what it means to me and what it means to others. Your blogs, your e-mails and your comments have been part of that journey. Hopefully we can pick up where we left off in September 2008.

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