Time Out: Janet McMahon

Janet McMahon has worked in sport for the past 25 years. Most recently the Director of Sport at Sport Manitoba, she was also the Sport Operations Manager for the 1999 Pan Am Games, Team Manitoba’s Chef de Mission in 1997 and 1995, and she participated in her first Canada Games as mission staff for the 1987 Games in Saskatoon. “Sport is an even bigger part of my life than even I realize sometimes,” she said. McMahon cycles and canoes, her sons play basketball, hockey, ultimate, and volleyball, and her husband is a cross country ski coach. 

Now, the Director of Sport and Venues for the 2017 Canada Summer Games, McMahon is looking forward to the magic the Canada Games will bring to Winnipeg, and to seeing her city engaged in Canada’s largest multi-sport event for young athletes. 

What do the Canada Games mean to you? 

JM: The Canada Games are a very magical Games. These are Canada’s Games. I think it has to do with the fact that people don’t really know them that well, and once they come to experience them it resonates on so many levels. First of all, these are fairly young athletes, but they’re serious athletes. These are people who’ve been training for years to come to a competition like this. It’s a very high level for that junior age, and when you get a group of young athletes together, that energy they have is phenomenal. I still go to the ceremonies and get goosebumps. I mean the Olympic Games certainly do that for people, but this is such a bigger scale. This competition exists for all the right reasons.

What is your favourite Canada Games moment?

The most incredible moment for me was when I was Chef [for Team Manitoba] in 1997 in Brandon. We did a parent and athlete gathering, and it was a summer evening in June, and it was just the perfect environment. Everyone wore their walkup clothing and their Team Toba gear, and I walked up to the podium to say you know, “Welcome, my name is Janet McMahon, and Team Toba rocks” or something like that, and the whole crowd went crazy. Certainly waiting with the athletes before they walk out for opening ceremonies is a special moment. I’ve had many of those where the athletes are going crazy screaming “Toba Toba” and doing the wave and having so much fun. I have to say to when I was Chef de Mission in Brandon, I had my little guy on my hip. I’d just come off mat leave and I could be there with my husband and my son. It was so fun to share that moment with them. 

What are you most looking forward to about the 2017 Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg?

Having lived in Winnipeg for a long time now, I want to see the city engaged to show off what we can do. We’re a city of festivals and the excitement of bringing a Games here in the Summer will help us bring this to another level. When the Pan Am Games were here, there was a real buzz in this city and the Canada Summer Games has the potential to do that as well. 

Take us through the next couple of months – what are you working on?

My responsibilities are sport and venues. We are just getting our sport and venue teams operational and I anticipate in the next few months, we’ll get some very strong, skilled, leaders really taking this thing to another level. We’re asking the right questions, getting our CADs built, and preparing for the first Chef meeting in May. I anticipate we’ll see a capacity start to build as we begin to turn the responsibilities over to the volunteers. Things have been very staff-driven until now so I’m excited to have these great people take over. It’s energizing.

What kind of legacy do you hope these Games will leave for Winnipeg and Manitoba?

Certainly because of the work I’m doing, the capital development will be very exciting. The Canada Games Sport For Life Centre at Sport Manitoba is a key element of sport having a home and youth and athletes having a place to be and train and excel.It’s also in the 6,000 volunteers we’ll need to help us work at this. They’ll have such a great time doing his and we hope they’ll continue to do so beyond the Games. We’re hoping we can attract younger people to work in this experience that will stay on as members of boards or committees. We really need the younger people to get involved in these Games. 

Share your message for the athletes in training and the visitors who’ll come to Winnipeg with us.

It’s a fleeting moment so embrace it. They need to know we’re working so hard to ensure the focus is on the athletes. It’s about them. We need to create the best environment for the athletes to perform. For some it may be their last experience in competitive sport because they choose to not go on, and for some this is the springboard that leads them to incredible, amazing things. They’ll go on to be our next heroes – whether they’re athletes or in other areas so we really need to maintain that focus and allow them to experience it to its fullest.