The time is running down with a season of World Cup competitions gone, but organizers of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, are about to take a page – and personnel – from Canada’s successful Vancouver Games in a bid to make their Olympics a success.
The newspaper Vedomosti, citing sources in the Sochi organizing committee, says Russian sports executives are about to spend $5-million (all currency U.S.) to hire sports experts from the Canadian company Allinger Consulting Inc. to bring the home team 14 gold medals in Sochi. The contract is to run to 2016, according to a report in Moskovsky Komsomolets.
Russian sports officials have been in discussions with Allinger since last November. Former Canadian speed-skating medalist Cathy Priestner-Allinger, an author of Canada’s Own the Podium blueprint and an Olympic organizer at Salt Lake City, Turin and Vancouver, has been considering the assignment since November. She stepped down from the advisory board of Own the Podium five months ago to avoid any conflict of interest.
Allinger Consulting consists of Cathy Priestner-Allinger and husband Todd Allinger, whose strength is sport science. He headed up the Top Secret division of OTP, which looked for advantages that could help Canadians win medals. Top Secret spent $8-million putting skiers, lugers and sledders into wind tunnels, did extensive studies of the types of snow that could fall at Whistler, and invested in a global positioning system to figure out the most effective way down a mountainside.
Canada got a record number of golds – 14 – in Vancouver and had 26 medals overall. Russia had only three golds, 11th best and less than half the country’s total in Turin four years before. Russia spent a reported $200-million on the Olympic team for Vancouver. Russia won 15 medals overall to stand sixth. The axe fell on several sports executives, starting with Leonid Tyagachev, who was head of the Russian Olympic Committee.
The Allingers are to reprise their roles for the Russian Olympic Committee, set up training programs for top medal prospects, and select personnel in medicine and nutrition. Priestner-Allinger called the move “a personal decision, for professional development.” The transfer of knowledge among successive Olympic organizing committees is a long-standing practice, although this goes beyond the usual nuts and bolts of Games operations.
Russia has in recent years hired a number of foreign experts to assist preparations in a number of individual sports, but this will be the first time foreigners have been given a role in its overall sporting preparation.