‘BoniBlog – Olympics lure Cole back to western roots

Cam Cole, recipient of the Sports Media Canada award for writing in 2004, is back in the Olympics for a 13th time. For those of you who don’t know Cam, his field of play is the newspaper world, providing his insightful columns these days with The Vancouver Sun, 35 years after he first worked in major papers.

Cam Cole outside the Main Press Centre

Born in Vegreville, Alberta – about 89 kilometres (55 miles) east of Edmonton on the Yellowhead Highway – he went to the University of Alberta.
“Didn’t learn a thing that was useful in my life,” Cole says, “however, I got to work at the student paper there in the sports department. Sports has always been a passion for me so I ended up as the sports editor in a very short period of time basically because the job was open and they had nobody to fill it.
“So I worked for a year and a half at the student paper and then got a call from The Edmonton Journal at Christmas time of my second year saying we just fired our high school sports writer, do you need a job? And I said, ‘when do I start?’ How about Monday? So I was out of university and into the newspaper business and worked 23 years at The Edmonton Journal, through some very great days of the Oilers and the Eskimos and some of their dynasty years. The City of Champions, yes, not so much any more but it was at the time.”
It was while at The Edmonton Journal that Cole also covered his first Olympics – at Calgary in 1988. A decade later, opportunity brought him east to Toronto.
“When Conrad Black started up The National Post it was suggested to me by my managing editor that it would be a very dumb career move not to say yes and so I went to Toronto for seven years and that was a very, very good time indeed to be in the newspaper business,” he says. “Money was kind of no object at the time and so it was just a good career move and probably spurred me on in terms of image and everything else to be able to have the opportunity to come out here to Vancouver. That, too, has been a very good move.”
The call from The Vancouver Sun in 2005 came while he was on assignment.
“I got a call during Super Bowl asking if I would consider coming out to Vancouver because the paper wanted to gear up for the Olympics in five years,” he says. “I said that’s the kind of challenge I’d really like to take on. More importantly, I think I wanted to come back out west. My family’s out here. I loved every minute of Toronto but I think I’m a western guy at heart and felt like this was the place where I belonged.”
He is absolutely amazed at how quickly the five years have zipped by since his move.
“Time does really fly by and in this business it seems to accelerate because the Olympics have been an oncoming train for quite a while here and it just seems to have picked up momentum, incredibly,” Cole says. “We started to run countdown clocks to this thing with 1,000 days left until the Olympics and we couldn’t believe how fast it marched past.”
A different aspect for Cole this time around is that the Olympics are occurring in his backyard and home for him is, well, his home.
“Calgary was close because I was in Edmonton at that time but I didn’t get home during the whole Olympic Games (in 1988),” Cole says. “I stayed in the village in Calgary. Here, I’m going home every night by SkyTrain and it’s been a bit of a different vibe altogether because, really, this downtown is so vibrant and full of people having a great time.
“This is probably of all the Olympics I’ve covered the most, other than maybe Barcelona, the most vibrant downtown core that I can remember for an Olympic Games. It would be a great time to be a part of it but I’ve got to be in that train home at night and back in the morning so I’m missing a little bit.”
Somehow we believe Cole, as he always does, will find a way to masterfully complete his job for The Vancouver Sun, enjoy the Olympic fun and find his way home, too.