Ignite Spotlight on Business by Quin Hauck
As the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games wrap-up, the brief intermission will soon give way to the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. For Calgarians, the Winter Games have always meant something more. Regardless of the Games occurring in our own backyards as they did in 1988, or across the world in Beijing, the excitement the city feels is directly due to WinSport— and the excitement is palpable.
“It’s energizing… there’s a lot of pride that goes through us here,” WinSport President and CEO Barry Heck says. “Many of the Team Canada athletes have trained or competed [here]. Some grew up at WinSport, so it gives us a great deal of pride and a sense of accomplishment to see that occur, and to know that we helped, and we made a difference.”
Of the 215 Canadian athletes competing at the Beijing Games, 144 have trained or competed at WinSport’s facilities at Canada Olympic Park (COP), the Bill Warren Training Centre in Canmore or the University of Calgary’s Oval. It is no surprise the “home team” status is one Calgarians assigned to Team Canada, as a win for the nation is a win for the city.
As Heck says, “In a lot of ways, this really is our Olympics… for our team members and coaches, and the people that have made WinSport what it is.” WinSport contributes heavily to Calgary’s economy and job market, bearing responsibility for 1,200 full-time jobs at COP and generating an annual revenue for the city ranging well past the million-dollar mark. But, as the Alberta-born CEO explains, it goes both ways.
“It’s a wonderfully symbiotic relationship, where all the great institutions or organizations of great cities helped shape and define each other,” says Heck. “It really is a mutually beneficial and constructive relationship that we have, and it goes to the heart and the fabric of what makes Calgary so great.”
WinSport’s unique relationship of city and sport is lightning in a bottle, and, as Heck believes, couldn’t be replicated anywhere else. “Calgary and WinSport are really a collection of people… It really is a beautiful relationship and one that fosters such great cooperation and work together… the people and the passion is unparalleled,” says Heck. “No one else can do it like we do.”
As we move towards the 2022 Winter Paralympic Games and witness more of our local heroes compete on the biggest stage, it is important to highlight that WinSport nurtures the potential in everyone, not just podium-postured elite athletes.
“The pinnacle for the elite athletes is, of course, medals and the podiums, but we are so much more than that—and we’re very proud of that” the non-profit CEO explains. “The truth is, we cover the gamut, right from the tens of thousands of schoolchildren that come through here every year… right up to our national team of Olympians and Paralympians.”
Whether the grass-rooted organization supports up-and-coming Calgarians achieve their athletic potential or their potential extraneous of sport, WinSport has an impact. Going forward, Heck sees nothing but up-and-up for WinSport.
“I expect much of the same, only bigger and better. We’ve thrived for over 30 years now since the 1988 Olympics, and we have a tremendous future in front of us,” says Heck. “We have some challenges, but we have a tremendous number of opportunities that we will rise to.” For Heck and WinSport, Calgary is the right city to tackle such challenges.
“The pride, the passion, the entrepreneurial spirit, the can-do attitude… It’s the caring, giving people that make up this city—that really is the heartbeat– and what makes Calgary one of the greatest cities in the world.” For Calgary and Winsport that heartbeat is elevated; we have 49 home players yet to compete in the 2022 Winter Paralympic Games, and we couldn’t be more proud.