CBC Sports

The Price of Pride and Performance

Posted: Thursday, March 4, 2010 | 05:12 PM

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The news that the Canadian government will extend its commitment to high performance sport is welcome indeed.

National pride requires an investment.

While we all reveled in the performances by this country’s athletes at the home Olympics, it’s safe to say there will be more moments to enjoy in the future.

But Canadians must avoid a tendency to jump off the bandwagon once the Olympics have left town. It demands an understanding that winning needs support and role models don’t just appear, they are nurtured in a willing environment.

In tough economic times it’s an interesting even debatable call.

It can easily be argued that more pressing needs for public funds exist in our fragile society. The vast majority of Canadians do not participate in this kind of sport and only the elite can represent the country on the international stage. Own the Podium, and its intended pursuit of excellence, is not a staple of national survival.

So why make the leap?

The answer is an acceptance that the dividends paid on this kind speculative, monetary, commitment are not immediately apparent. But when the payoff comes, as it did in Vancouver and Whistler, the benefit is immense.

It is encompassed in a national sense of well being that most Canadians eagerly embrace.

But the government cannot be the only patron.

“The money needs to come in larger part from businesses and if this can happen the impact will be profound,” said six-time Olympic medallist Clara Hughes. “To get anywhere near the realistic amount of money it takes, the source cannot be the government alone.”

Chris Rudge, CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee, agrees.

“This is a big and welcome step in the right direction,” he said. “While most other countries are continuing to build, at least maintaining the program at its initial funding level is very important in this transitional time.”

Bobsleigh pilot Lyndon Rush captured the first Canadian medal in 46 years in the 4-man event. “I am a direct result of Own the Podium,” said the native of Humboldt, Saskatchewan. “When they got the money they recruited me. I worked hard and the payback is this bronze medal. I think it was worth it.”

As Rush was speaking he cradled the medal that hung around his neck like a national treasure.

Maybe it is, just as the other 25 medals won at the home Olympics are. So too are the record 14 gold medals, which allowed Oh Canada to be the most frequently played anthem at the Games.

But all that patriotism comes at a price and it hinges on great performance.

Finally, it seems, Canadians are willing to pay.

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