Post-Games, no cash earmarked for Own the Podium

ROBERT MATAS

VANCOUVER From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

During the Olympics, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell was an enthusiastic supporter of the Own the Podium program for training high performance athletes, promising to continue the province's financial contribution even past the 2012 Summer Games in London.

"We don't intend to stop," Mr. Campbell said at the time. "We intend to continue to support our athletes ... The federal government can expect us to be a partner in the long term for our elite athletes in Canada."

But less than 48 hours after the Olympics were over, B.C. support for Own the Podium was conspicuously absent from the province's budget as it was unveiled yesterday.

The government announced new funding of $30-million over three years that restores provincial support for sport to 2008 levels.

The new funds are "to facilitate increased participation in youth sports and improved athlete and coach development," states its fiscal plan, without setting out any commitments on how the money will be spent.

The B.C. government had provided $10-million over the past five years to Own the Podium.

Program officials have previously expressed concern that support would not continue after the Olympics. Yesterday, the officials declined to comment.

Paul Varian, president of Sport BC, an independent group supported by 65 provincial sport organizations, said he was "very happy" with the restoration of funding cut last year. He anticipated the B.C. government will be involved in discussions with others who also contribute to Own the Podium. "I would be very surprised if they completely abandoned it," he said.

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