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  • Sentimental Journey to Prague for Canadian Olympic Leader


    (ATR) For Michael Chambers, this week’s return to Prague has evoked fond memories of a tense, but triumphant time in early July 2003.

    The current chair of the ANOC Legal Commission and former president of the Canadian Olympic Committee reminisced about July 2, 2003 - when Vancouver won the right to host the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

    Victory came at the 115th IOC Session in the Czech capital – a dramatic turn of events playing out at the Prague Hilton, in the very same conference room where 205 NOC’s met at this week’s ANOC General Assembly.

    “I was confident that it was something we could achieve, but it was going to have to be head down and digging all the way,” Chambers told Around the Rings about the 2003 IOC vote, on the sidelines of this week’s Prague gathering.

    Chambers admitted it was a pressure-packed day, as he and the Vancouver bid delegation, including hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, found a way to squeak past their opponents from PyeongChang.

    PyeongChang came within two votes of securing the 2010 Games on the first ballot.

    “Some of our team knew, but some of our team didn’t,” Chambers said, regarding the first round tabulation.

    “I remember our core group going back up to our war room and Gretzky, our star centerpiece, kept repeating ‘well guys, what does this mean?’” Chambers continued. “Not realizing that we had been two votes away from certain death, I said to him ‘this means we will win, because I figured Salzburg’s votes
    Mike Chambers (r), with Vancouver 2010 bid chief John Furlong and Canadian ski great Steve Podborski. (ATR)
    would come to us.’”

    With the Salzburg bid eliminated, Vancouver was elected to host the 2010 Winter Games in the second round by a vote of 56-53 over PyeongChang, making its first of three bids for the Winter Games.

    All across Canada, and particularly in the province of British Columbia, celebrations broke out amidst the announcement made by IOC President Jacques Rogge

    “It just seemed that Vancouver was a natural go-to for Salzburg voters and that’s
    Wayne Gretzky was part of the Vancouver team in Prague in 2003. (ATR)
    what happened,” Chambers said.

    “We had a few IOC supporters, who hadn’t voted, but were still in the session – the first round vote leaked out and they went around to people they could influence and said ‘hey, you voted for PyeongChang and I know you want the Games in Vancouver.’”

    “Dick Pound was going around to people he knew who really wanted the Games in Vancouver, but may have voted for PyeongChang and did what he could” Chambers said.

    Chambers was joined in Prague 14 years ago by Vancouver bid C.E.O. John Furlong, chairman Jack Poole, Vancouver mayor Jack Campbell and Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien.

    The Ottawa-based attorney, who has been a board member of the COC since 1984 and has also served on various IOC working groups, acted as a gracious winner.

    “The very first thing I did when it was announced that we won…I immediately walked over to the PyeongChang group and shook the hands of the three or four people I knew well,” Chambers said. “I had been on the losing side a couple of years earlier in Moscow with Toronto and I knew how much of a letdown it must have been for them.”

    Not surprisingly, Chambers has thoroughly enjoyed his return visit to the Czech capital.

    “Here I am, back again,” he said. “I tell you – just talking about it, warms me up.”

    Written and reported in Prague by Brian Pinelli