TORONTO — Canada's Olympic team will compete in Tokyo on the heels of a year like no other, a year that saw us cheer for front-line workers like we do rock stars and sports heroes.
And so, the Canadian Olympic Committee's "Glory From Anywhere" Tokyo campaign, unveiled Monday, goes beyond the field of play to celebrate regular Canadians doing extraordinary things.
"It's kind of a thank-you to Canadians," said Marnie McBean, the Canadian team's chef de mission for Tokyo. "Athletes came home (during the COVID-19 pandemic) to be part of the bigger Team Canada, the 37 million. And this is our way of saying that, when we talk about Team Canada, we're talking about you too."
The campaign features Olympians such as decathlete Damian Warner and basketball player Kia Nurse, but Canadians outside the sports community as well, including a firefighter and a teacher.
"Being able to think about the year that we've had as a society, and what Canadians stand for, the values that we stand on . . . you have to find your glory in whatever you're doing," said Nurse. "For me, I'm an athlete, so it's about going to the Olympics and finding success there. That's where I find my glory.
"(But) we're also celebrating community leaders and community heroes who've done so much to continue to build our society to make it a better place. And that's their form of glory. It's just understanding that anyone, anywhere, can find their own success and find their own glory, even though it might look different from somebody else's."
The other athletes featured are: Jennifer Abel (diving); Felix Auger-Aliassime (tennis); Ellie Black (artistic gymnastics); Andre De Grasse (track and field); Annie Guglia (skateboard); Melissa Humana-Paredes and Sarah Pavan (beach volleyball); and Skylar Park (taekwondo).
It also highlights Shawn Morris of London, Ont., who decided to become a firefighter after watching the first responders during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Miranda Kamal of Toronto began boxing to help her through the healing process from sexual assault. She started a volunteer-run boxing gym for at-risk youth.
And Lee Martin of Sarnia, Ont., is an elementary teacher who's passionate about the power of being a global citizen. In 2018, he received the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence.
"One of my messages as a mentor and as somebody who supports the team has always been there are no superheroes out there, it's normal people who are doing incredible things," said McBean, a three-time Olympic rowing gold medallist. "And this pandemic really did bring this back, and put a focus on the importance of community."
The past year highlighted that Canadian athletes are Canadians first, she said. When the pandemic first struck and Canadian athletes training abroad were instructed to come home, "they did. No one needed to be coached into that. It was this organic 'community comes first.'"
McBean said it was a similarly organic reaction by Canadian athletes around the vaccine roll-out. They had no intention of jumping the line.
"Everyone knew that community needed to come first, people who are frontline workers or healthcare workers, our first responders, they needed to come first, like that was super organic. And our marketing campaign is (about) how being an Olympic is deeper than that."
McBean noted the excellence of athletes off the field of play this past year. Olympic wrestling champion Erica Wiebe earned her MBA from Queen's University, artistic swimmer Jacqueline Simoneau was the Vanier College valedictorian, women's rugby sevens players Charity Williams and Pamphinette Buisa used their voices to speak out against racial injustice, and Nurse was among WNBA players who called for decent pay and working conditions for female athletes.
"With this year, especially in terms of the pandemic . . . it was just moving past everything and understanding that this was a year where people really sat down and were able to figure out what was most important to them," Nurse said. "Especially in a world that's driven by social media, so driven by social comparison.
"That's what I think this year really did was just connected us all in a way that reminded us we are human and we are going to struggle and that is OK. But there's also the sense of resilience that we have as humans, and we're always going to bounce back from it."
The Olympic campaign, developed in collaboration with Toronto creative agency Camp Jefferson, features a mix of TV, digital video, print, social media, and out-of-home advertising such as billboards and bus shelters.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 14, 2021.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press