Sylvie Bernier and Mark Tewksbury sit at a press conference table

FAQ: What is a Chef de Mission?

For every multi-sport Games – whether that be the Olympic Games, the Pan American Games, or the Youth Olympic Games – Team Canada is led by a Chef de Mission.

But what does that title mean? Who can fill the role? And what do they actually do?

We’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions about the Chef de Mission.

What is a Chef de Mission?

Translated directly from French, the title means “head of mission”. In the sports context, it usually refers to the person who leads a national delegation – including athletes, coaches, and other behind-the-scenes team members who form the Mission Team – at an international competition.

What are the responsibilities of a Chef de Mission?

One of the primary responsibilities of Team Canada’s Chef de Mission is to be the spokesperson for the entire team in the lead up to and during the Olympic or Pan Am Games. They are also a mentor, supporter, and cheerleader who aims to motivate and inspire the team while protecting the performances of the athletes.

Curt Harnett holding a Team Canada scarf above his head

Chef de Mission Curt Harnett cheers for Team Canada in women’s water polo at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.

Their duties begin well before the Games as they participate in events such as preparation seminars for athletes, coaches, and Mission Team members and serve on several Games-related committees, such as the one that finalizes team selections and the one that selects Team Canada’s flag bearers for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

Is the Chef de Mission paid a salary?

For Team Canada, the Chef de Mission is primarily a volunteer position, with honoraria provided for some public appearances.

Who can be a Chef de Mission?

Every country uses its own criteria to select a Chef de Mission. For Team Canada, the key position is filled by an athlete who represented the country in international competition, particularly multi-sport Games.

To be the Chef de Mission at an Olympic Games, the athlete must be an Olympian themselves. They are also eligible to be Chef de Mission for the Pan Am Games or Youth Olympic Games. Athletes who only competed at the Pan Am Games are eligible to be Chef de Mission for the Pan Ams or Youth Olympic Games. Athletes who only competed at the Youth Olympic Games can apply to be Chef de Mission of those Games.

What are the requirements to become a Chef de Mission?

It is vital that the credibility of Team Canada’s Chef de Mission be impeccable. Therefore, they cannot have served any sanction under the Olympic Charter, World Anti-Doping Code, or any applicable policies and guidelines of the Canadian Olympic Committee, the International Olympic Committee or Panam Sports.

Nathalie Lambert holds the Vancouver 2010 mascots

Olympian Nathalie Lambert holds up the Olympic mascots after being named Canada’s Chef de Mission for 2010 Olympic Winter Games. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

As the spokesperson for Team Canada, it is important that the Chef de Mission be comfortable and accomplished as a public speaker and have strong communications skills.

Leadership and team building are also key skills as well as a commitment to creating an environment in which athletes can compete to the best of their abilities. They should be passionate about sport and contribute to the sport community.

Ideally, they’ve been part of a Canadian Mission Team before and can communicate effectively in English and French. Being an Olympic medallist is always a nice bonus.

Who selects the Chef de Mission?

For Team Canada, the Chef de Mission Selection Committee includes the COC President, the COC’s Chief Executive Officer, a representative of the COC Athletes’ Commission, a member of the COC Board of Directors, the Chefs de Mission of the most recent and corresponding Games (ie: for the Olympic Winter Games the Chef of the previous Olympic Winter Games and the most recent Olympic Summer Games), and the COC’s Chief Sport Officer in a non-voting role.

Has Team Canada always had a Chef de Mission?

London 1908 were the first Olympic Games at which Canada was represented by an official delegation (as opposed to individual athletes and sports teams entering Paris 1900 and St. Louis 1904). From 1908 to 1936, the leader of the Canadian Olympic Team was known by the titles of Team Manager or General Manager.

It was in 1948 that the title of Chef de Mission was first used by the Canadian Olympic Team.

Who have been Team Canada’s Chefs de Mission?

In earlier Games, the Chef de Mission position was filled primarily by sports administrators or volunteer sport leaders. Some of them had been Olympians themselves, such as James Worrall, who after competing at Berlin 1936 was an Assistant Chef de Mission at London 1948 and Helsinki 1952 before serving as Chef de Mission at Melbourne 1956 and Rome 1960, which preceded his term as COC President.

James Worrall at the LA Coliseum

James Worrall at the Los Angeles Coliseum

Since Beijing 2008, Team Canada’s Chef de Mission has consistently been an Olympian.

The list of Team Canada’s Chefs de Mission, as well as their Assistant Chefs de Mission, for the summer and winter Olympic Games is in the table below. Olympians who later served as Chef or Assistant Chef de Mission are noted by an asterisk and their sport.

Starting at PyeongChang 2018, the Assistant Chef role was replaced by a more clearly defined Athlete Mentor role on the Mission Team.

Season Olympic Games Role Name Sport
Summer Tokyo 2020 Chef Marnie McBean* Rowing
Winter PyeongChang 2018 Chef Isabelle Charest* Short Track Speed Skating
Summer Rio 2016 Chef Curt Harnett* Track Cycling
Assistant Isabelle Charest* Short Track Speed Skating
Assistant Carol Huynh* Wrestling
Winter Sochi 2014 Chef Steve Podborski* Alpine Skiing
Assistant Jean-Luc Brassard* Freestyle Skiing
Assistant France St-Louis* Ice Hockey
Summer London 2012 Chef Mark Tewksbury* Swimming
Assistant Sylvie Bernier* Diving
Winter Vancouver 2010 Chef Nathalie Lambert* Short Track Speed Skating
Assistant Steve Podborski* Alpine Skiing
Assistant Joé Juneau* Ice Hockey
Summer Beijing 2008 Chef Sylvie Bernier* Diving
Assistant Peter Giles* Canoe/Kayak Sprint
Winter Turin 2006 Chef Shane Pearsall
Assistant Sylvie Bernier* Diving
Summer Athens 2004 Chef David Bedford
Assistant Nathalie Lambert* Short Track Speed Skating
Winter Salt Lake City 2002 Chef Sally Rehorick
Assistant Shane Pearsall
Summer Sydney 2000 Chef Diane Jones Konihowski* Athletics
Assistant Betty Dermer-Norris
Winter Nagano 1998 Chef Brian Wakelin
Assistant Bob Rogers
Summer Atlanta 1996 Chef Michael Chambers
Assistant Sylvia Sweeney* Basketball
Winter Lillehammer 1994 Chef Bill Warren
Assistant Sally Rehorick
Summer Barcelona 1992 Chef Ken Read* Alpine Skiing
Assistant Sylvie Bigras
Winter Albertville 1992 Chef Walter Sieber
Summer Seoul 1988 Chef Carol Anne Letheren
Assistant Yves Tetreault
Winter Calgary 1988 Chef Jean Grenier
Assistant Brian Wakelin
Summer Los Angeles 1984 Chef John Lecky* Rowing
Assistant Bill Cox
Winter Sarajevo 1984 Chef Bob Hindmarch
Assistant Jean Grenier
Summer Moscow 1980 Chef Denis Whitaker
Winter Lake Placid 1980 Chef Marcel de la Sablonnière
Assistant Sigrid Chatel* Fencing
Assistant Peter Duncan
Summer Montreal 1976 Chef Maurice Allen
Assistant Patricia Smith
Assistant Gilles Chattel
Winter Innsbruck 1976 Chef Don Goodwin
Assistant Linda Crutchfield* Alpine Skiing/Luge
Assistant John Pickett
Summer Munich 1972 Chef Maurice Allen
Assistant Don Goodwin
Assistant Richard Pound* Swimming
Winter Sapporo 1972 Chef Frank Shaughnessy Jr* Ice Hockey (USA)
Assistant Ken Murray
Assistant Pat Ramage
Summer Mexico City 1968 Chef E. Howard Radford
Assistant Maurice Allen
Assistant Bill Parish
Winter Grenoble 1968 Chef Frank Shaughnessy Jr* Ice Hockey (USA)
Assistant Vic Emery* Bobsleigh
Summer Tokyo 1964 Chef E. Howard Radford
Assistant J.H Bowen
Assistant Bill Parish
Winter Innsbruck 1964 Chef Frank Shaughnessy Jr* Ice Hockey (USA)
Assistant Grant Boyd
Assistant Bud Clark
Summer Rome 1960 Chef James Worrall* Athletics
Assistant E. Howard Radford
Winter Squaw Valley 1960 Chef Frank Shaughnessy Jr* Ice Hockey (USA)
Summer Melbourne 1956 Chef James Worrall* Athletics
Assistant E. Howard Radford
Stockholm 1956 (Equestrian) Chef George Jacobsen
Winter Cortina d’Ampezzo 1956 Chef Frank Shaughnessy Jr* Ice Hockey (USA)
Summer Helsinki 1952 Chef Kenneth P. Farmer* Ice Hockey
Assistant James Worrall* Athletics
Assistant J.W. Davies
Winter Oslo 1952 Chef W.T. Pickering
Summer London 1948 Chef Nelson C. Hart
Assistant James Worrall* Athletics
Assistant J.W. Davies
Winter St. Moritz 1948 Chef
Summer Berlin 1936 Chef Sam Manson
Winter Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936 Chef
Summer Los Angeles 1932 Chef M.M. Robinson
Winter Lake Placid 1932 Chef
Summer Amsterdam 1928 Chef Dr. A.S. Lamb
Assistant T.R. Loudon
Winter St. Moritz 1928 Chef
Summer Paris 1924 Chef Dr. A.S. Lamb
Winter Chamonix 1924 Chef
Summer Antwerp 1920 Chef
Summer Stockholm 1912 Chef
Summer London 1908 Chef J. Howard Crocker