The CEO Poll: The Olympics and business don't mix

Canadian buiness leaders largely indifferent to the Games.

Business leaders give the federal mini-budget high marks.

Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien recently criticized current Prime Minister Stephen Harper for not attending the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, but a majority of Canadian CEOs polled by COMPAS Inc. see Chrétien’s attack as specious.

“He is self-serving and biased,” wrote one respondent of Chrétien. A strong majority of the 109 business leaders polled felt that Chrétien’s longtime association with major investments in China place him in a conflict of interest when he speaks about such issues. The same respondent went on to say that while Chrétien was out of line, Harper should still have attended the opening ceremony. “Not to send a message to China,” the CEO wrote, “but to support the athletes.”

As for the Games themselves, the panel was divided on their impact. Half of the respondents believe the Olympics help law-abiding businesses and spread democracy by fostering communications between countries around the world. But half of the panel also said the Olympics undermine democratic values as some nations break the rules, doping athletes and, as China allegedly did this past Olympics, using underage gymnasts. “The Olympic Games are more or less irrelevant to the spread of civil society and peace and goodwill among nations,” wrote one respondent.

Using taxpayer dollars to fund Olympic athletes garnered little support among the panelists. Less than one-third of the CEOs were in favour of the idea. Similarly, only a quarter of the respondents believed that if Canada increased investment in its athletes, Canadian companies would also benefit since more businesses deals would occur.

“Canada should invest more in its athletes, period,” wrote one respondent. “It should not be related to potential business deals.”

Another panelist disagreed, arguing that investing taxpayer dollars in Olympic athletes only benefits a subset of the population. “If you want to support something, you are free to spend money,” wrote the respondent. “But don’t force me to.”