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London Olympics: 37 Days to Go. Will Canadians be Watching?

We are only 37 days until the start of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.  As the world’s biggest sporting event, all eyes will be on the thousands of athletes from around the world who will descend on London to compete in 36 different sports.

My favourites are the cycling, tennis, athletics, and diving competitions.

Can Mark Cavendish, the world’s faster man on two wheels, win the gold in his home country? Can Canada’s Clara Hughes finish a stellar comeback with another medal in the women’s road race?

With the London as the backdrop, the men’s road race scheduled for July 28 and the women’s race scheduled for July 29, it will be an exciting start to the games.

But are Canadians excited for the games?  What is the collective expectations for the Canadian Olympic team?

In mid-May, we asked over 1,000 Canadians in a national survey those very questions.

Here’s what we found out.

Interest in the Summer Olympics

Overall, interest in the games is fairly mixed.  Fifteen percent of respondents said they were very interested in the upcoming Summer Olympics while another 33% said they were fairly interested.  Three in ten (30%) said they were not very interested while 22% were not at all interested.

Interest was fairly consistent across the country with Ontarians being slightly more likely to say they are interested than those in other regions of the country.  Despite hosting the Winter Olympics in 2010, British Columbians are no more interested in the Summer Games than other Canadians.

Our survey also found that there was little different between men and women while younger Canadians are slightly more interested in the Summer Games than older Canadians.

Finally, Canadians with university degrees are slightly more interested than those with high school diplomas or less formal education.


Medal Expectations

Whether rightly or wrongly, the success of an Olympic team is usually measured by the number of medals a country’s athletes bring home.  The Own the Podium program and federal funding all look at medal counts as a measure of success.

At the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, Canadian athletes won a total of 18 medals including three gold medals six more than they won during the 2004 Athens Summer Games.

When we asked Canadians what they expect for the 2012 games, most felt that Canadian athletes would win about the same number of medals while 23% believed that they would win more medals.  Only 8% believed Canada would win fewer medals than in 2008.

Canadians expect its athletes to at least deliver as many medals as 2008 with about a quarter thinking we can do better.

Expectations were somewhat among 18 to 29 years (30% more medals) and lowest among those aged 45 to 59 (19% more medals).  British Columbians were the most optimistic (28% more medals) while Atlantic Canadians and those living in Manitoba and Saskatchewan were less optimistic about a higher medal count.

All in all, the London Olympics isn’t lighting Canadians on fire.  There are pockets of excitement across the country.  Maybe its because we are better a winter nation or because the hype over the games hasn’t ramped up yet.  Either way, we expect our athletics to perform at least as well as they did in Beijing.

In my case, I’m excited.  In 2008 I was out of the country for the entirety of the games and missed it all.  I’m looking forward to watching and seeing the Canadian flag raised more than 18 times.