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  • Olympian Charmaine Crooks: "Sport Can't be Complacent"


    (ATR) Five-time Olympian Charmaine Crooks tells Around the Rings this year's Host Cities Summit tackled a unique set of obstacles for Olympic leaders.

    Olympic silver medalist Charmaine Crooks moderates a panel discussion at Host Cities 2015 in Dubai. (Getty)
    "This is a year where sport is being challenged," Crooks said on the sidelines of the summit in Dubai.

    "Sport can't be complacent because there are cities, there are sponsors, and there are athletes who want to continue to compete with every confidence in Olympic leaders."

    She added, "The system is one that will be strong if we continue to maintain our vigilance when it comes to transparency and accountability in sport.

    "That's how we'll ensure athletes still want to compete in sports events and that people still want to host them in their countries."

    "It's important for the Olympics to always stay relevant."

    Asked whether additional sports proposed by Tokyo 2020 could attract a younger audience to the Games, Crooks said there is more to consider when choosing new sports for the Olympic Program.

    "You have to look at the regional relevance as well; attract sports that have the capability to grow within that region.

    "Look at which sport makes sense to the venues that are there and makes sense from a media, broadcast standpoint. 

    "You have to look at how a sport works to build the Olympic brand."

    As a member of the Canadian Olympic Committee's executive board, Crooks moderated a panel discussion on the role of women in sport at Host Cities this year.

    Crooks was the first Canadian woman to run 800m in under two minutes. (Getty)
    Members of the panel included: professional golfer Emma Carbrera-Bello; Mai Al Jaber, a member of the UAE National Olympics Committee's Executive Board; and professional footballer Kelly Smith.

    "We discussed the health of women, we talked about entrepreneurship, and how some of the qualities from sport translate into being an entrepreneur," Crooks said.

    "We also talked about technology and how young athletes are using social media to build their fan bases."

    Crooks added, "There are challenges for young girls without access to sport.

    "Those in leadership positions can crack that ceiling to ensure that our voices are not only heard, but we get to do the work around the table as well."

    Crooks, who served on the IOC Athletes' Commission, said IOC President Thomas Bach's work on Olympic Agenda 2020 is a step in the right direction.

    Recommendation 11 of Agenda 2020 says the IOC should work with IFs to achieve "50 percent female participation in the Olympic Games and to stimulate women's participation and involvement in sport by creating more participation opportunities at the Olympic Games."

    Crooks told ATR, "I applaud Thomas Bach for really taking that on and making sure that Agenda 2020 has a female lens for some of the initiatives that are being pursued right now."

    She added, "We need stronger networks among the IFs and NOCs; among all the different entities who are helping to deliver sport.

    "IFs and NOCS need to make sure women are at the table, so that we can continue to develop the policies that allow young girls to come into sport and have a path that leads either to the podium or a leadership position."

    Crooks said the teams behind current bids for the 2024 Olympics showcase the benefits of having strong female athletes at the helm.

    Crooks (left) and Olympian Barbara Kendall participate in the 2010 Olympic torch relay (Getty)
    Olympic gold medalist Diana Bianchedi, Rome 2024 director general, is the only woman in a senior leadership position on any of the five bids.

    Budapest, Los Angeles, Paris and Rome are the other contenders vying for 2024 hosting rights.

    Olympian Janet Evans is vice chair of L.A. 2024. IOC Executive Board member and Olympic fencer Claudia Bokel is closely involved with Hamburg 2024.

    "Look at the athletes involved in the L.A. bid, Claudia Bokel with her bid in Germany. There are some very strong female athletes who are involved right now.

    "They certainly have the capability and the experience to drive home bids for their cities."

    Written by Nicole Bennett

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