Two years ago a group of evangelical leaders gathered in Montreal to discuss strategy for the upcoming Olympic games. The leaders included representatives of the evangelical community in Montreal and of outreach organizations in both Canada and the United States. Thus was born the cooperative evangelical endeavor known as Aide Olympique.

It was decided that at Montreal there would be more emphasis than there had been during the 1972 games in Munich on involving Christian athletes in ministry, on serving where needs existed with no strings (or tracts) attached, and on reaching the residents of the host city, not just the visitors to the games.

As Olympiad XXII wound to a close last month, outreach leaders gathered to assess their efforts:

• There was more togetherness, more mutual ministry and nurture, and more active engagement in witness on the part of Christians among the 10,000 competing athletes than in any other Olympics in decades.

• The city-wide witness campaign was the best coordinated, most extensive cooperative evangelistic effort in Montreal’s history.

• A greater sense of unity and cooperation exists in the comparatively small and divided evangelical community than at any other time in memory.

Montreal is an unlikely place for all this to happen. Founded in 1642, it is Canada’s largest city, and its nearly three million people are predominantly French-speaking Catholics—as are 80 per cent of the people of Quebec province.

With the Olympics came troubled times for the city: costs had exceeded the initial budget by nearly $1 billion, security was tight, hundreds of athletes were becoming pawns in political battles. The athletes themselves had their own problems to think about.

To help out at that point, the Canadian Olympic ...

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