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.

SeasonOlympic GamesRoleNameSport
SummerTokyo 2020ChefMarnie McBean*Rowing
WinterPyeongChang 2018ChefIsabelle Charest*Short Track Speed Skating
SummerRio 2016ChefCurt Harnett*Track Cycling
  AssistantIsabelle Charest*Short Track Speed Skating
  AssistantCarol Huynh*Wrestling
WinterSochi 2014ChefSteve Podborski*Alpine Skiing
  AssistantJean-Luc Brassard*Freestyle Skiing
  AssistantFrance St-Louis*Ice Hockey
SummerLondon 2012ChefMark Tewksbury*Swimming
  AssistantSylvie Bernier*Diving
WinterVancouver 2010ChefNathalie Lambert*Short Track Speed Skating
  AssistantSteve Podborski*Alpine Skiing
  AssistantJoé Juneau*Ice Hockey
SummerBeijing 2008ChefSylvie Bernier*Diving
  AssistantPeter Giles*Canoe/Kayak Sprint
WinterTurin 2006ChefShane Pearsall 
  AssistantSylvie Bernier*Diving
SummerAthens 2004ChefDavid Bedford 
  AssistantNathalie Lambert*Short Track Speed Skating
WinterSalt Lake City 2002ChefSally Rehorick 
  AssistantShane Pearsall 
SummerSydney 2000ChefDiane Jones Konihowski*Athletics
  AssistantBetty Dermer-Norris 
WinterNagano 1998ChefBrian Wakelin 
  AssistantBob Rogers 
SummerAtlanta 1996ChefMichael Chambers 
  AssistantSylvia Sweeney*Basketball
WinterLillehammer 1994ChefBill Warren 
  AssistantSally Rehorick 
SummerBarcelona 1992ChefKen Read*Alpine Skiing
  AssistantSylvie Bigras 
WinterAlbertville 1992ChefWalter Sieber 
SummerSeoul 1988ChefCarol Anne Letheren 
  AssistantYves Tetreault 
WinterCalgary 1988ChefJean Grenier 
  AssistantBrian Wakelin 
SummerLos Angeles 1984ChefJohn Lecky*Rowing
  AssistantBill Cox 
WinterSarajevo 1984ChefBob Hindmarch 
  AssistantJean Grenier 
SummerMoscow 1980ChefDenis Whitaker 
WinterLake Placid 1980ChefMarcel de la Sablonnière 
  AssistantSigrid Chatel*Fencing
  AssistantPeter Duncan 
SummerMontreal 1976ChefMaurice Allen 
  AssistantPatricia Smith 
  AssistantGilles Chattel 
WinterInnsbruck 1976ChefDon Goodwin 
  AssistantLinda Crutchfield*Alpine Skiing/Luge
  AssistantJohn Pickett 
SummerMunich 1972ChefMaurice Allen 
  AssistantDon Goodwin 
  AssistantRichard Pound*Swimming
WinterSapporo 1972ChefFrank Shaughnessy Jr*Ice Hockey (USA)
  AssistantKen Murray 
  AssistantPat Ramage 
SummerMexico City 1968ChefE. Howard Radford 
  AssistantMaurice Allen 
  AssistantBill Parish 
WinterGrenoble 1968ChefFrank Shaughnessy Jr*Ice Hockey (USA)
  AssistantVic Emery*Bobsleigh
SummerTokyo 1964ChefE. Howard Radford 
  AssistantJ.H Bowen 
  AssistantBill Parish 
WinterInnsbruck 1964ChefFrank Shaughnessy Jr*Ice Hockey (USA)
  AssistantGrant Boyd 
  AssistantBud Clark 
SummerRome 1960ChefJames Worrall*Athletics
  AssistantE. Howard Radford 
WinterSquaw Valley 1960ChefFrank Shaughnessy Jr*Ice Hockey (USA)
SummerMelbourne 1956ChefJames Worrall*Athletics
  AssistantE. Howard Radford 
 Stockholm 1956 (Equestrian)ChefGeorge Jacobsen 
WinterCortina d’Ampezzo 1956ChefFrank Shaughnessy Jr*Ice Hockey (USA)
SummerHelsinki 1952ChefKenneth P. Farmer*Ice Hockey
  AssistantJames Worrall*Athletics
  AssistantJ.W. Davies 
WinterOslo 1952ChefW.T. Pickering 
SummerLondon 1948ChefNelson C. Hart 
  AssistantJames Worrall*Athletics
  AssistantJ.W. Davies 
WinterSt. Moritz 1948Chef  
SummerBerlin 1936ChefSam Manson 
WinterGarmisch-Partenkirchen 1936Chef  
SummerLos Angeles 1932ChefM.M. Robinson 
WinterLake Placid 1932Chef  
SummerAmsterdam 1928ChefDr. A.S. Lamb 
  AssistantT.R. Loudon 
WinterSt. Moritz 1928Chef  
SummerParis 1924ChefDr. A.S. Lamb 
WinterChamonix 1924Chef  
SummerAntwerp 1920Chef  
SummerStockholm 1912Chef  
SummerLondon 1908ChefJ. Howard Crocker