Monday, July 15, 2002

Politicians got deluxe treatment at Olympics

How suite it was for cabinet ministers, sports officials at rates up to $3,500 a night

Saturday's Globe and Mail reported that the Canadian government the government spent almost $400,000 on accommodations during the Olympics for politicians and Canadian sport functionaries, some of whom jetted to the Games aboard a government jet.

The cash-strapped women's cross-country ski team boosted its training fund between the Nagano and Salt Lake Games by marketing a calendar depicting the athletes nude.
Last year, the national cross-country-ski team had a $350,000 budget -- less than the amount spent in three weeks on the government's hotel rooms -- and national cross-country coach Dave Wood said the team expected a post-Olympic funding cutback.

"It made me pretty sick," said cross-country Olympian Sara Renner, when she heard of the government's spending at Salt Lake. "Politicians wanted to look like athletes, but the obvious difference is that their wallets are a lot heavier."

Sports Minister Mr. DeVillers called it "the usual way of doing things at Olympics. We're part of the Canadian delegation. We don't skate the short track and don't take the bumps and bruises, but we're certainly there representing the country, and it's only reasonable to be dressed accordingly and be identified with Canada."

If this is how they represent their country they should stay home the next Games and use the money to better fund the athletes.

Today's Globe reports that Opposition rips 'over-the-top' Olympic hotel bill

"It strikes me as extremely decadent behaviour on the part of government officials, especially when we know amateur sport has been struggling financially," Mr. MacKay said.

While athletes and officials with the International Olympic Committee stayed in Spartan university accommodations, Canadian cabinet ministers Paul DeVillers and Sheila Copps and Sport Canada officials stayed in luxury hotels, with taxpayers footing bills of up to $3,476 a night for a single suite.

Canadian Alliance MP Monte Solberg said he understands the need for politicians and sports officials to represent Canada at the Games, but it should have been done with fiscal responsibility.

One could ask what value these free loading politicians bring to the Games. Athletes earn their way to the Games. They are there to compete. That is the essence of the Games. Politicians go there to party and be seen. If they want to spend time around athletes they should get out to the swimming pool at 5 AM or outside in Ottawa's cold winters where our track athletes are trying to train because Ottawa has no indoor training facility. Then, maybe, just maybe, they could spend some of our money where it belongs, on the athletes.