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Spiritual Help His Daily Task
Soul man: a Pentecostal chaplain from British Columbia offers a listening ear and spiritual counsel to the athletes at the 2006 Winter Olympics.

North Delta's David Wells is an Olympic soul man. While coaches and team psychologists care for the physical and mental well-being of 2,500 athletes, Wells is responsible for their spiritual health. "I've assisted people through several bereavements at different events I've been at," said Wells, who's a chaplain at the 2006 Winter Games. "Or it can be competition-related. Maybe they've had a result and they're under a lot of pressure and didn't meet expectations "I've seen a few tears over the years."

David Wells, a member of the chaplaincy team, outside the athlete's village.

In his daily life, Wells is district superintendent of 180 churches for the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada in B.C. and the Yukon. In Turin, he's one of about 18 Protestant chaplains looking after the athletes.

"I specifically make myself available to the Canadian team should a crisis arise," he added. The 50-year-old Wells grew up in Edmonton and started playing hockey when he was five. "So there's a whole winter-sports passion," he grinned. "I worked the penalty box at the old Edmonton Gardens. My wife says if there's two kids playing in a mud-puddle and it involves sports, I'll watch it."

Wells first got the Olympic bug at the Calgary Games in 1988. "I started as a volunteer working arranging for a lot of youth involvement," he said. "I arranged for hundreds of kids to go through the Saddledome at the end of the hockey games and clean it in five to seven minutes."

He also hosted international chaplains who were working the Games. Those contacts led to him going as a volunteer chaplain to the Commonwealth Games in Auckland in 1990, Victoria in 1994 and Manchester in 2002. He also volunteered at the Athens Olympics in 2004.

At the Olympics, Wells performs an interfaith ministry and schedules services and prayer gatherings for the Christian community.

He also puts athletes from other faiths, such as Muslims or Buddhists in touch with chaplains of their own faith. "I'm not trying to be a coach or take the place of any other support people," said Wells. "I don't get in the middle of team disputes or anything, but I am a sympathetic and confidential ear."

It's all a question of trust, added Wells, who works out of Broadway Church in east Vancouver. "The first thing I emphasize is that they're in the midst of life," he said. "We all focus in on 16 days of their life, but they're living life beyond that and normal things are going on back home."

Wells is living in Pinerolo, midway between Turin and the mountain venue at Sestriere, so he can come to either athlete village if needed.

"It's an interesting thing to be in this bubble," he said. "You meet a lot of people and then everyone goes their separate ways again."

Damian Inwood is a reporter for The Province. He can be reached at

Originally published in The Province, February 14, 2006.




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