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Own the Podium funding remains intact for Canadian Olympic, Paralympic efforts

National sports federations recalculating their budgets after the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics can count on a continued level of funding from Own the Podium.

Organization committed over $40.5 million to summer sports for 2019-20

On Tuesday, Own the Podium CEO Anne Merklinger, above, reassured funding recommendations identified for summer sports in 2019-20 will remain in place. The decision relieves national sports federations of a considerable financial burden. (CBC)

National sports federations recalculating their budgets after the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics can count on a continued level of funding from Own the Podium.

The news was delivered to the high performance directors of both summer and winter Olympic and Paralympic sport federations last week, soon after the International Olympic Committee and Japanese organizers announced a one-year postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"People breathed a sigh of relief knowing that the funding recommendations that were identified for summer sports are intact, nothing is going to change," Anne Merklinger, OTP's chief executive officer, said Tuesday.

OTP had committed just over $40.5 million to summer Olympic and Paralympic sports for 2019-20.

The IOC announced on Monday the Tokyo Olympics will now open July 23, 2021, followed by the Paralympics on Aug. 24. That leaves a tight window before the Feb. 4 opening of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Merklinger doesn't see OTP funding being impacted for winter athletes in the fiscal year spanning April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021.

"We're in the mindset right now of doing annual reviews for winter sports and that funding will be confirmed over the next six to seven weeks," she said. "The funding envelope that we had previously believed would be available from the funding partners is 100 per cent available. There's been no change whatsoever to the financial landscape."

Looking down the road, OTP is sailing into unchartered waters. The Tokyo summer Games, and Beijing Winter Games fall in the same fiscal year. They are then followed by the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics, slated to start July 26 with the Paralympics Aug. 11.

"That is indeed very challenging for everyone," said Merklinger. "The situation is challenging for Canada and Canadians and every country in the world."

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About 90 per cent of OTP funding comes from the federal government. The Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee also contribute.

Over the last several weeks the federal government has announced billions of dollars in aid packages to help individuals and companies impacted by COVID-19. How that affects government spending in the future remains to be seen.

Companies that help sponsor individual sports federations may also be reviewing their budgets.

Merklinger believes how Canadian athletes perform on the international stage "will continue to be important for the government of Canada."

"I'm a firm believer that sport has a critical role to play in how we as a nation recover from what we're going through," she said. "The timing of the Tokyo Games and the Beijing Games has the opportunity to continue to have a dramatic impact on Canadians.

"We've had very positive messages from the funding partners. There's nothing cast in stone, there's no guarantees at this point."

Merklinger said she a had positive meeting with Adam van Koeverden, the former Olympic rowing champion who is now the parliamentary secretary for sport.

"He certainly is supportive and recognizes the value of sport for Canadians," she said. "Our commitment to national sport organizations is to have some clarity from the funding partners by the fall of 2020."

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