Road To The Olympic Games

Olympics Winter

Own The Podium to get no extra funding

The federal government will maintain its funding of Own The Podium beyond the 2010 Winter Olympics, but will not commit to spending more money on the program.

The federal government will maintain its funding of Own The Podium beyond the 2010 Winter Olympics, but will not commit to spending more money on the program.

Own The Podium is the $117-million, five-year strategy for the home team to win more medals than any other country at the Olympics.

It was paid for with $66 million of taxpayer dollars. The Vancouver organizing committee, known as VANOC, covered most of the remainder with corporate sponsorship money.

OTP chief Roger Jackson says VANOC money will no longer be available after the Games. He's asked for $22 million in replacement funding in the next federal budget, expected to be released in March.

Minister of State Gary Lunn said the federal government will continue to fund both summer and winter sport at $47 million per year. Some $11 million of that goes to winter athletes and $36 million to summer athletes.

But the minister would go no further than that at a news conference in Vancouver Tuesday that included Jackson and Canadian Olympic Committee chief executive officer Chris Rudge, saying it's going to be a "tough budget."

'No new money'

"We've invested heavily over the last year in our stimulus package to keep the economy going," Lunn said. "The prime minister has made it very clear. He is not going to raise taxes and we have to get back to balanced budgets. There is no new money out there."

"It's going to be difficult. It's not just sport. It's every single ministry. We're the one funding partner that is our committing our $11 million. We'll work with OTP and with the COC to try and find ways on how we can support them going forward."

Germany finished first in the total medal count at the 2006 Olympics with 29 medals. Canada, which finished third with 24, will likely need to match Germany's total, or close to it, to finish first in the medal count in 2010.

Lund promised that funding decisions will not be based on the Canadian team's performance in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C.   

"Absolutely not," he said. "Any decisions I make now or in the future is not based on performance at all by our government at these Games."

Rudge says there may be room for compromise on the request for replacement funding.

"I don't know if we'll get it all," he said. "I'm hopeful we'll get some of it."

Expert panel

Lunn has struck a panel of sport experts last year to study Canada's sport system beyond 2010.

That group included Paralympian Chantal Petitclerc; chairman David Zussman of the University of Ottawa; George Heller, former president and CEO of both the Victoria Commonwealth Games and the Hudson's Bay Company; former Olympic speedskater Cathy Priestner-Allinger; and Karen O'Neill, former chief operating officer of the Rick Hansen Foundation.

The panel made their recommendations to Lunn in December. The report will likely determine the role of OTP after the Games, but the minister won't release the report until after the conclusion of the Paralympic Games in March.

"This is not the right time," he said. "Right now, we're focused on winning gold and cheering on our athletes."