As an acclaimed author and CBC sports veteran, Scott Russell’s career of more than 20 years has allowed him to cover nine Olympic Games, which included co-hosting Olympic Morning in Beijing. We spoke with the Gemini award-winning broadcaster about his cottage on Ontario’s Gull Lake, and how this unlikely area inspires him to write about the games.
Cottage Life: With the Olympics happening this summer, how much time will you get to spend at the cottage?
Scott Russell: I’ve spent as much as I can prior to the Olympics. I go to London on July 19th, I’m back August 13th. Then we’ll be at the cottage until after Labour Day. When I’m not working at the Olympics, I plan to be at the cottage.
CL: Do you do much work at the cottage?
SR: It can be a little bit difficult, because let me tell you, getting work done is not my first priority when I’m there, but I try to conduct as much of my life as I can at the cottage. I mean, I want to enjoy it up there, but it’s also a great place to be inspired to write about sports and outdoor life in general.
CL: How does the cottage inspire your work?
SR: I cottage on Gull Lake, just south of Minden. As a kid, I went to Kilcoo Camp, which is also on Gull Lake, so the cottage has always been my, ‘get back to Gull Lake goal,’ and I did that two years ago. As a camper on Kilcoo, we had our own version of the Olympics every summer, and that’s where I first fell in love with the games. We had a torchbearer, a full procession, and it was then that the Olympics became very real to me. That‘s what inspires me to write at the cottage.
CL: You spent a lot of time at camp growing up, but did you do much cottaging when you were young?
SR: It was the camp that brought me back to Gull Lake specifically, but my grandfather had a tiny square cottage on Lake Simcoe, and I always spent parts of my summer there as a child. My grandpa was a Scottish guy and he named his cottage Carluke, so now my cottage is also called Carluke. I spend a lot of time with my family up there, but also with my Kilcoo family, because my best friends now all have cottages on Gull Lake and we spend time connecting with one another—dock to dock—every time I’m there.
CL: Do you have any family traditions at your cottage, either new or perhaps ones that you’ve carried on from your grandfather’s cottage?
SR: One thing we always do is the polar bear swim. First thing in the morning—whether it’s the beginning of May, when we tend to open up, or Thanksgiving—we go for a swim.
CL: The books you’ve written are very Canadian, in terms of the sports you cover and the themes you address. Is there anything about cottaging that you find distinctly Canadian?
SR: There is definitely something about cottaging that is distinctly Canadian and Roy McGregor has written to great effect about that. It’s this connection to our outdoor way of life, to a huge country. We connect through these cabins that are not always in the wilderness, but are certainly close to nature. I think cottaging is, for many Canadians, a way to connect to their childhood and to happy times. We tend to get caught up in a lot in the city, but the great advantage we have as Canadians is that we can always get to the country pretty easily.
Scott Russell on the deck of his Gull Lake cottage.