Healthy funding influx has Canadian Olympic Committee beaming
No traditional financial downturn seen after Vancouver Games
Bal Gosal, federal Minister of Sport, centre, walks off the Canada Olympic Park bobsled track after a ride with bobsled driver Sarah Monk, right, and freestyle skier Mikael Kingsbury on Thursday during a news conference to announce government funding for the Sochi Games.
Photograph by: Ted Rhodes, Calgary Herald
Invariably, the end of a home Olympic and Paralympic cycle, given the emotional and financial stakes funnelled into such highly-charged, relatively short amount of time, means a gradual tapering off of interest, a pullback of dollars; it typically marks a period of funding re-evaluation and a subsequent scaling down of ambition.
“That,” said Canadian Olympic Committee CEO Chris Overholt on Thursday, “has not been the experience here. And isn’t that great?
“Usually when you come out of a home games — look back as recently as Salt Lake, I can’t recall what Calgary’s opportunity was coming out — and ordinarily the first thing that happens is government money falls off and then the private sector follows.
“It was the reverse here.
“The first thing the Harper government did was step up and make a big commitment to Own the Podium. Since then, our team has been working with our national federations to tap the private sector and we’ve seen record deals over the last six months.
“I can tell you safely, unequivocally, we’re in as strong a financial position — the Canadian Olympic Association Committee, in association with his partners Own the Podium — as we’ve ever been.”
The federal government’s $31 million injection into the 2012-2013 preparations for 11 winter national sports organizations and accompanying sports centres as the clock ticks relentlessly towards Sochi and the 2014 Winter Games has the Canadian Olympic movement not only aspiring to equal the glories of Vancouver, but to better them.
While some individual associations have absorbed funding hits — bobsleigh/skeleton lost VISA as a sponsor and the freestyle ski team lost Canada Post — the overall outlook coming out of the post-2010 world is extremely bright.
So instead of the that legacy being the closing of a wonderful book, those plotting podium glory for Sochi in little more than a year’s time see it as the opening of a door of wider opportunity.
“We have the largest financial backing in a fiscal year leading into an Olympic Games in history,” said Own the Podium CEO Anne Merklinger. “We know going into the upcoming fiscal year that there is an additional $2 million available for national sport organizations and, more importantly, $25 million total for the entire year going into Sochi.
“That’s more money than has ever been available directly to national sports organizations.
“That speaks to the importance of winter sport to Canada, to Canadians and to our government. Our two partners, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee, have also stepped up in terms of providing additional financial support.
“So the four-year financial envelope that’s available is $10 million higher than it was going into Vancouver. That’s significant. It really is. We know it’s very challenging for host nations to maintain their performance going into the next set of Games.”
For Minister of State for Sport, Bal Gosal, the money is well spent.
“When we look at 2010 Vancouver Olympics, at how the whole nation came together. Sport is something that drives communities, that brings the national together. The pride we feel when we see our athletes performing at the world-stage level. When I go around the country, everybody I talk to is so proud of our Olympians.”
The goal, naturally, is to take Sochi by storm and better the 26 medals (third most among all nations), including a Games-high 14 gold, that Canada chalked up on the west coast.
So even with the echoes of Vancouver receding ever-so-slightly, this, then, is still a good time to be a Canadian Olympic or Paralympic athlete.
“I really think it is,” enthused Overholt. “I hope they feel that way. Because the support we’ve been able to marshal, not only from the Harper government but the incredible support we’ve seen the last year and a half from the private sector has been kind of overwhelming, which is great for all of us to see.”
Follow George Johnson on Twitter/GeorgejohnsonCH
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