Thursday, August 14, 2008

Amateur Games Funding - Pools or Potholes?

With Canadian athletes coming up regrettably short in the medal count so far during the current Olympics we are seeing the usual refrain - if we funded them better we would do better.

Canadians must decide what their priorities are for government funding. If we are to increase athletic funding, how will we do it? Tax hikes? Program cuts? Corporate welfare and regional development programs ought to be cut, for sure. Should the money go to building pools or fixing potholes? Should it fund running or roads? Not to mention that tax relief is sorely needed. As well, this call for more funding for athletics comes on the heels of calls for billions more to be injected in cities, in transit and in infrastructure.

By the way, Sport Canada already spends over $111 million a year to support a long list of athletic organizations. Over 1,900 athletes received another $23 million in grants of up to $18,000 per year. As well, we are paying for the Vancouver Olympics; costing $2.1 billion and counting so far. This works out to over $250 million a year on amateur sport. There are other excellence in sports programs as well. Just how much is enough?

It is not as though there is a shortage of games that we fund: Francophone Games, North American Indigenous Games, Arctic Winter Games, Canada Summer Games, Canada Winter Games, Pan Am Games, University Games, Commonwealth Games, Winter Olympics, Summer Olympics, the Gay Games and every provinces' respective games as well.

Perhaps the problem is a lack of focus, with money spread out across 1900 carded athletes and as can be seen by the numbers of games we support. Sport Canada funding goes to tonnes of organizations also; Canoe Association, Blind Sport Association, Deaf Sport Association, Cerebral Palsy Sport Association, Aboriginal Sport Circle, and the Centre for Ethics in Sport, just to name a few.

It seems to be the Canadian way never to say no to anyone so all are treated equally. Well, the medal count indicates the results of this approach.

Interestingly, Australia spends $250 million a year. They have 16 medals so far. Yet, their swimming coach is already calling for increased funding. It seems that no level is ever enough to make people happy.

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