COC on Parliament Hill Today Seeking $22 Million to Maintain Level of Funding for Own the Podium

As the Olympic Torch Relay winds its way to the Nation’s Capital, representatives of the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC), Own the Podium (OTP), Sport Matters Group, AthletesCAN, National Sport Federations and Olympic and Paralympic athletes will be meeting with parliamentarians in Ottawa today seeking the inclusion of $22 million in the forthcoming budget to maintain the current level of funding for the Own the Podium program following the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

In meeting with members of all parties, the group will express its appreciation for the support provided to the team in advance of the 2010 Games, report what gains OTP has provided and discuss the means by which the program and its initiatives can become a permanent legacy.

On December 9, the Standing Committee on Finance recommended the Federal Government allocates $22 million annually to finance the COC’s Own the Podium program following in their pre-budget report to Parliament.

“Own the Podium has had exceptional returns since first initiated five years ago. We were No. 3 in 2006, first in World Championships last year and poised to have historic Games in 2010,” said COC President Michael Chambers. “Maintaining the program and building upon its success so that all Canadians continue to benefit from the achievement of our high performance athletes will be the greatest legacy for sport from the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

“Nothing unites Canadians more than our collective celebration of success on the world athletic stage,” said Alex Baumann, Chief Technical Officer Own the Podium and double Olympic gold medallist in swimming. “Our challenge will be to sustain the momentum after 2010 as we propel forward into the ranks as of one of the top sporting nations.”

OTP was created five years ago to help the Canadian Olympic Team achieve its greatest success ever at an Olympic Games. It is a collaborative effort involving all Winter Sport partners, including the COC, CPC, Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC), Winsport (formerly CODA), Sport Canada and all 13 winter sport federations.

The program, which has since expanded to represent summer sport, is currently operating with a budget of $70 million annually, with $50 million of support from the federal government and the balance from VANOC corporate sponsors, provinces and other small sources. After the 2010 games, $22 million will fall out of the current funding formula due to the end of sponsor relationships after the Games, loss of Provincial money, and sun setting of some federal funds.

The program is designed to give athletes enhanced support equal to or beyond our top competitors through enhanced coaching, sport science, sport medicine, innovative training techniques, superior equipment and technology, more travel to compete at top international competitions, enhanced years round training, top secret technology programs.

Goals in 2010 are for Canada to be the number one nation at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games (total medal count) and to place among the top three nations (gold medal count) at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.

Athletes and sport representatives meeting with Members of Parliament, Senators and other parliamentarians today include Michael Chambers, COC CEO Chris Rudge and COO Lou Ragagnin, CPC CEO Henry Storgaard, Alex Baumann, AthletesCAN Executive Director Moira Lassen, Olympians Karen Cockburn (trampoline), Curt Harnett (cycling), Alexandra Orlando (rhythmic gymnastics), Angus Mortimer (canoe-kayak), Sue Holloway (kayak/cross-country skiing), James Cartwright (canoe-kayak), Sarah Boudens (canoe-kayak) and Don Jackson (figure skating) as well as Paralympians Jason Dunkerley (athletics) and Chelsea Lariviere (wheelchair racing).