Humidity and snow may seem like an unlikely pair, but just as seasons move from one to the next, one naturally led to the other for Greg Stremlaw. Shortly after completing his master’s degree in business administration at the University of Maine, Stremlaw found himself with several promising job offers—but none that truly inspired him. Though his educational background was in business, he found that a career in business wasn’t for him—so with a bit of uncertainty, and a lot of anticipation, he accepted an opportunity to work at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida.
It was through this experience that Stremlaw’s eyes opened to his passion for sports, and while at the Orange Bowl, he completed a master of sports management degree at the University of Miami—just in time to work the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Canada brought home twenty-two medals that summer, and as he watched firsthand, Stremlaw knew he wanted to be involved in the Olympics at a greater level. “It was a defining moment in my career,” he says. “I wanted to wake up every morning and work for this cause that I loved.”
A history of the games
International Olympic Committee was formed
First modern Olympic Games was held in Athens, Greece
Olympic flag featuring five, interlocking rings was flown for the first time
Winter Olympics debuted
Summer and Winter Games separated, alternating every two years
His recruitment to the Calgary Olympic Development Association (now known as WinSport) as director of sport services and bobsleigh/luge led to a move from muggy Miami to chilly Calgary. Seven years later, he accepted the CEO position at Chicopee Ski and Summer Resort where he applied his education and intuition to develop the resort’s key strategy.
In 2007 he brought those skills to Curling Canada where he spent eight years refining and encouraging innovation that led to the organization’s financial turnaround. His work with Curling Canada helped the country become the number one nation in global rankings for men’s, women’s, and wheelchair curling.
All Teamwork and All Play
Today, Stremlaw applies all these experiences as head of CBC Sports and general manager of the Olympics at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation—a position he has held since September 2015.
Stremlaw knew from previous experience that collaboration would be vital for his position with CBC, but found that teamwork would need to be more than just internal. Working closely with international sports-governing bodies, national sports brands, and high-performance and national sports organizations in Canada is essential to ensuring the best sports coverage in the country. This level of teamwork is also necessary for achieving CBC’s greater broadcasting goals—and Stremlaw’s personal mandate—to accurately reflect the regional diversity of Canada through sports broadcasting.
Launching a new, multiplatform broadcasting strategy has required substantial teamwork as well. The platform increases viewer accessibility by offering coverage via mobile and desktop streaming and television broadcasts. “We provide an important public service in sports broadcasting,” says Stremlaw. “This platform enables us to do so at an even greater level.”
The platform is part of a greater sports strategy at CBC that focuses on a renewed commitment to connecting audiences with Canada’s high-performance athletes and their sports. The core of the strategy is the athletes, “those who are established, as well as those in the midst of earning the right to wear the maple leaf as they compete,” says Stremlaw. “They are our mantra and motto and reason for being.”
One way CBC is creating its focus on athletes is a new core project called, “Road to the Olympic Games.” It will feature 360-degree storytelling of every athlete in each Olympic sport throughout the years between, and during, the Olympic games. “We will build athletes’ brands so viewers will be well acquainted by the time they reach the Olympics,” says Stremlaw. The hope is that Canadians will watch these athletes develop into world champions and will bond with them at a deeper level.
CBC Broadcasting Bits
Languages in which CBC broadcasts, including French, English, and eight Aboriginal languages
Partnerships with Canadian sport organizations
People sent to broadcast the Olympic Games in Rio
The year through which CBC is the only rights holder in Canada to the Olympics
Furthermore, Stremlaw has built a considerable amount of experience in the field over the course of eight Olympic games. “I’m familiar from an athletic, coaching, and management perspective,” he says. “And through each I’ve learned the importance of collaboration, partnership, and balance.” Those characteristics and his well-rounded perspective have served him well as head of CBC Sports and general manager of the Olympics, particularly in his appointment as CBC/Radio Canada’s chef de mission.
Stremlaw’s main responsibility is oversight of the Olympic rights that CBC has acquired in Canada through 2024. Because CBC is the rights-holding broadcaster of Canada, Stremlaw helps lead the team of sublicensed broadcasters. He acts as a Canadian Olympic ambassador, functioning as a conduit between Canadians (other broadcast networks, fans, athletes, and sports organizations) and the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees.
Games Over Isn’t Game Over
Broadcasting the Olympic Games is a massive and complex undertaking, no matter the location. CBC required approximately 250 people on site for the recent Rio Games, as well as additional production staff in Toronto and Montréal. The organization partnered with seven other Canadian networks to provide over thirteen-hundred hours of televised events in Rio in both French and English.
Thanks to a partnership with Visa and the International Olympic Committee, CBC also offered one-hundred hours of 360-degree coverage to viewers with immersive compatible technology. Another four-thousand hours on twenty-three free, live-streaming channels, paired with the Olympic app made the Rio Games the most covered and accessible in Canadian history.
When the Games were in Russia, 97 percent of Canadians tuned in to portions of the Olympic coverage, which Stremlaw says speaks to national passion for sports and the power they have to bring people together. “The Olympics are about shining moments of excellence and patriotism,” Stremlaw explains. “Those viewers who tune in to watch their fellow Canadians wear the maple leaf on their chest or on their back are the driving engine.”
In the wake of Rio, Stremlaw says that he and his team are already prepping for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games and juggling the daily business of broadcasting sports across Canada. Fortunately, Stremlaw has the experience, education, and passion to make it happen. “A long time ago I made a conscious decision to combine business with sports management, and I don’t have any regrets,” he says. “For me it was about self-actualization—wanting to make a difference—and I am lucky to have found such meaning in work.”
Did you Know?
Four sets of siblings competed for team Canada at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Much of that meaning comes from national pride, protecting athletes’ rights, and being a member of an effective team. But most of all, whether Stremlaw is working on a CBC core project, an Olympic broadcasting challenge, or representing Canada at an international level, his deepest sense of purpose comes down to collaboration and partnership. From humidity to snow, Canada to Brazil, television to mobile live streaming, Stremlaw finds a way to bring seemingly unlikely pairs together in winning combinations.