On Feb. 13 the largest Canadian Winter Olympic team in history will march into Calgary’s McMahon Stadium for the 1988 Games’ opening ceremonies. Taking advantage of its position as the host Olympic association, the Canadian Olympic Association (COA) has relaxed its traditional standards for Olympic qualification.
At the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, 92 Canadians competed in eight sports. But at Calgary, the host nation will likely be represented by 115 Olympians competing in all 10 Games’ events and an additional 25 to 30 athletes competing in four demonstration sports. Said Roger Jackson, president of the COA and head of the association’s team selection committee: “It will not just be our largest team. It will be our most competitive and best team ever.”
Traditionally, Canadian athletes earn the right to follow the flag into the gala opening ceremonies by fulfilling both of the COA’s clearly defined criteria. Canadian athletes must be ranked in the top 16 in the world in their event and in the top half of a designated world-class
competition, or have demonstrated what the COA terms a “reasonable probability” of finishing in the top half of such a field in the Games. Those criteria will apply to the Summer Olympic team for Seoul, South Korea, next September. But because Canada is host for the Winter Games—and in some events, including the Nordic combined, the nation would not otherwise be represented—the 30 national sports-governing
bodies in Canada unanimously agreed in 1985 to a lessening of the standards for the Calgary Games.
Adjustment: The COA
made three adjustments. To wear the red and white in Calgary, Canadians must now finish either in the top half of a world-class field or in the top 16. And just in case no Canadians qualify in an event, the COA has decided, Jackson says, “to have representation by a minimal number —one, two or three —whatever we think is reasonable so that sport would be represented at the Games.” For athletes failing to achieve the reduced stanÿ dards, Jackson added: « “We will give careful o consideration to those 2 who were close to the standards. And we will also provide the opportunity for a limited number of promising newcomers to compete, with an eye to the next Winter Games in 1992.”
Because the winter sports—excluding hockey, figure skating and alpine skiing—are not as entrenched and developed in Canada as they are in Europe and the Soviet Bloc, Jackson considers the expanded Calgary team critical to the Winter Olympic team’s progress. Said the gold medal-winning rower at the 1964 Summer Games: “It would be limiting not to look ahead to the next Games. We have the chance to give these young people the opportunity to compete in a Games, to gain the experience and perhaps some advantage as they prepare for 1992.”
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