Outgoing Premier Gordon Campbell's contribution to sport remembered

Campbell poses with Scott Moir, Olympic gold medalist in ice dancing

On the tail of Gordon Campbell's resignation, British Columbians are left to look back over the highs and lows of his political career. The HST may have been one of the last nails in his coffin, but Campbell always demonstrated a strong commitment to athletics and healthy living, say leaders in the field.

"He was a huge supporter of the Olympics and a key person in getting the Olympic bid here," said Tim Gayda, CEO of Sport BC. Campbell's vision of how to bring the event to B.C. is probably his biggest contribution to sports in the province, he said.

"The Olympics changed the way Canadians look at sport. Now we're no longer content to settle for fourth place. Now we want to be the best."

At one point, Campbell advocated for the inclusion of women's ski jumping in the games.

"We've let the IOC know that we think it would be a great thing in B.C. to have women's ski-jumping here," said the premier in January 2008. "We want to make sure that the Olympics is a showcase for excellence in sports for men and women."

"Campbell really is a sports fan. He's definitely a soccer fan," said Bob Lenarduzzi, President of Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

"I think what the government has also done is that they’ve recognized that sport is good for your health. At the same time, all those little kids can strive towards being at the top of their sport, even if they don't make it, the fact that they can dream about it is important," said Lenarduzzi.

Campbell's party has given financial support for sports in the province, said Gayda. The 2010 Sports and Arts Legacy dedicated $30 million, or 50 per cent of the funding over three years, to increased participation in sports. The Whitecaps have a grant from the government towards a yet-to-be-built training center, said Lenarduzzi.

Politically, Campbell prioritized sports and athletics through the creation of Act Now, said Sue Griffin, President and CEO of the BC Sports Hall of Fame. "It reflects a vision by his party in terms of demonstrating the impact of sport and recreation in the province," Griffin said.

Act Now, a cross-government health promotion initiative was implemented in 2006 in the lead-up to the Olympic Games with the aim of "improving the health of British Columbians by taking steps to address common risk factors and reduce chronic disease."

The program recognizes that sport can be a tool to get kids off the couch and avoid massive health costs down the road, said Gayda. "There's more to sport than winning the gold medal. It does change societies."

The B.C. Liberals' commitment to sports has resulted in stronger cross-sector relationships for sport and active living in B.C., Griffin said. 

"The premier was very keen on sport," she said. "They have a fabulous program called the Premier’s Athletic Awards and they gave out plaques to the different high schools students." The Athletic Awards recognize the top male and female athletes from 50 sports participating in the BC Athlete Assistance program.

Gayda said that he was not worried that sports would be left behind now that Campbell has stepped down.

"We’re not worried. There’s bigger issues than just us. We have a great new minister, Stephanie Cadieux. She does come with a bit of a sport hat on."

If an NDP government took over, Gayda is confident that they would maintain a high level of commitment to sport.

"We always have to sell the merits of sport to governments. But no matter what government comes into place, sports build healthy communities. All politicians see that. Whether it’s one government or another, we’re largely confident of the merits of sport."

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