2001 was a “Canadian Odyssey” as world class athletics and the draw of Alberta & the Rocky Mountains caused an avalanche of fans to sign up for the Edmonton World Champs – the off track experience matched that in the stadium with an imaginative T&FT excursions and cultural programme.
The sparkling success of the Sydney 2000 Olympics certainly drew fans to want to experience the buzz of a major event and packaged within an exciting adventure holiday the interest for Edmonton far exceeded predictions. For a long-haul destination 150-200 fans had been expected but remarkably 150+ booked our Rocky Mountain add-on tours as 350+ British and international fans attended the Edmonton event. The performances of the GB team were more muted than expected with an unusually long absentee list of injured athletes that would have been expected to add to the sole gold and silver medals of Jonathan Edwards and Dean Macey respectively. Similarly retirements of major world stars such as Michael Johnson and Cathy Freeman post-Sydney saw new less familiar names break through to begin their eras: it was notably the start of the “Swedish revival” with Christian Olsson and Kajsa Bergqvist medalling to back up the three medals – two golds – that Sweden had won at the World Indoors in Lisbon. They were supported by a large group of Swedish fans within the T&FT group in Canada and we shared their excitement as athletic fans do.
However, Cathy Freeman was in Edmonton – working for the BBC – and she was invited to be our star guest at our T&FT Supporters Party. Her attendance was not only a great highlight of the event but in knowledge of this the local “first nations” group that we had invited to attend grew in numbers from 6 to 25. Attired in astonishing native costumes – grizzly and black bear outfits, beautiful ornamented colourful deer skin dresses, feather headdresses and ornate moccasins – and supported by hypnotic drumming their 20 mins “welcome ceremony” was a remarkable performance. Inspired by, and so interested to meet Cathy the interaction between the “first nations” group and her was really something: aboriginal mutual respect for sure – and for us on-looking non-native visitors – an original and truly memorable experience.
The Edmonton event was certainly one where, with our company name and objectives, the emphasis on “Tours” more than fully supported the “Track & Field” that usually steals the headlines. In many respects it was first hand access to the “first nations” culture, Lake Louise, the Athabasca Glacier, the Prairie Railway Adventure – with the cowboy stickup – the Rocky Mountaineer experience, the visit to the homesteading Ukrainian Prairie community and their splendid lunch, Vancouver and so many smaller townships and outstanding landscapes that we saw that were the true stars of this holiday experience – sport took us there but so much more enthralled us.
Earlier in the year at the Lisbon World Indoors Britain had won 4 medals with Daniel Caines surprisingly winning the 400m gold, with Jonathan Edwards and Christian Malcolm (200m) winning Silvers and Mark Lewis Francis making his senior breakthrough winning bronze in the 60m – he later ran 9.97 for a World Junior record in Edmonton. At the Europa Cup Final the British teams were an unspectacular 5th (Men) and 4th (Women) as depleted teams set the tenor for the World Championships to come. But as ever the teams were well supported by groups of fans and T&FT in another busy year for globe-trotting athletic supporters.