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Friday, December 20, 2002

City of Ottawa Subsidizes Mercenary Sport:

On September 19th I went before the City of Ottawa Health, Social Services and Recreation Committee to request that the City act on earlier requests for the provision of interim facilities and/or financial support for the local athletics community to bridge to such time as, hopefully, the City build an indoor training facility.

This request came after the committee had delayed the start of the meeting to donate $5,000.00 of taxpayers money to the charity of choice of a retiring City senior recreation manager - one who was not particularly sympathetic to the plight of the local athletics community.

When the committee responded to the request with the standard "we have no money, yada yada.." response (remember, this is just minutes after they burned $5,000 as mentioned above), I responded that I thought it strange that a city that subsidized three mercenary sports teams, the Senators hockey team, Renegades football team and the Lynx baseball team could not support an indoor training facility. Councillor Alex Munter, the chairman of the committee, responded that they did not subsidize these teams. This is the same Alex Munter who at an RMOC meeting on the 8th of December, 1999 put forth a motion that recognized that "...whereas Kanata bearing a disproportionate burden for Corel Center tax reduction is only a one-year situation, until the new city of Ottawa comes into effect, at which time the cost of this reduction will be spread across the region...". If it looks like a subsidy, smells like a subsidy and walks like a subsidy, it's a subsidy Mr. Munter.

The facts are as follows:

1. It is a matter of public record that the City built a single-use facility baseball stadium for the Lynx expending over $20 million of taxpayers money. This stadium is the biggest white elephant in the City and when the Lynx leave town it will make a great snow dump.

2. The Renegades have a three year rent free deal at Lansdowne Park.

3. The Senators had their property tax bill reduced from $4.6 million to $700,000 as part of a collusion between the Province of Ontario, the City of Kanata and the RMOC in 1999. This deal continues today under the new City of Ottawa.

Any rational person would agree that these three teams are being subsidized.
In fact in speaking with a city tax official, when asked if he would characterize the Senators deal as a subsidy, he said that, yes ,the Senators were being subsidized by the City of Ottawa and the Province. The yearly subsidy by the City for the Senators would almost pay for an indoor training bubble facility by itself.

The City's study on an indoor training facility is proceeding at a pace that will see global warming eliminate the need for an indoor facility in the City.

At the very least the City should provide a subsidy to the athletics community towards the use of the Coliseum at Lansdowne Park.

Posted by Ken Parker

Ken Parker has been a runner, coach, race director and sponsor for the past 25 years+ in Ottawa. He has been involved in several initiatives to get the City to build an indoor training facility over this time.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

The Road Less Traveled No More

A Guest Rant by Larry McCloskey, Ottawa Runner

For 20 years I have run and walked and trained in the Arboretum on a daily
basis. I have often marveled at Ottawa's best kept secret--150 acres of
trees, greenspace and gravel paths nestled along the canal and Dow's Lake,
within a stone's throw of all things central in Ottawa. During all my
years of ritual I have had opportunity to observe other people enjoying
the Arboretum. So I feel that I can speak with some authority about what
people like about the Arboretum. And never in all these years have I ever
heard anyone utter a word in support of having the wonderful, natural
paths of the Arboretum paved. That's right, regular users will be shocked,
as I was today, to learn that the main path through the Arboretum,
connecting the Dow's Lake Pavilion to the Hartwell Locks is now being
prepared to be paved! The NCC have very recently placed a sign in the
Arboretum indicating that some construction is scheduled to take place,
but no one I have talked to had any idea what was being planned. So my
questions to those responsible within the NCC are, what in the world makes
you think that anyone wants this unnecessary expenditure of tax payers
money? Who among regular users of the Arboretum did you consult with
before making this decision? Can you produce any surveys, questionnaires,
documentation of any kind to show that paving the Arboretum is something
that people, any people, anywhere actual want?

A paved path through the Arboretum will result in bicycles riding much
too fast for safety through what is now a pristine, urban oasis. Suffice
to say, pavement in the Arboretum goes against everything that the
Arboretum now stands for. The only justification for paving the Arboretum
might be to make it accessible for persons with disabilities. But if this
is the reason, then the NCC had better figure out a way to make the
Hartwell Locks accessible in order for this to have any meaning. There are
many of us in Ottawa who would like some answers about the disgrace that
is about to be forced upon the Arboretum.

Larry McCloskey

Ottawa, ON

Thursday, August 22, 2002

The Pathetic State of Funding for Sport in Canada

This article originally appeared in the Premier Edition of Ottawa Outdoors magazine.

In March of this year 35 athletes travelled to Ireland to represent Canada at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships. Twenty-three of these athletes were self-funded. Canada, for some reason, cannot find the money to send athletes to a world championship.

I would think that when Canada selects athletes to compete internationally representing their country the athletes would be funded by Canada. At the federal level, our government can find money to fund an irrelevant event such as the Francophonie Games and also pay the expenses of athletes from other countries to come to Canada for the event. Not only does Canada absorb this cost but we are also paying for the record number of athletes who defected during the games and have now become Canada’s financial responsibility. The federal government can also find the funds to throw a “party” for our winter Olympians. At the same time as this party is being quickly organized and the money found to spend on it, our cross-country team is financing their own way to Ireland. Who sets these priorities?

Some athletes are fortunate enough to find corporate sponsors to assist them with their expenses. This is how the government sees fit to reward these companies for their sponsorship: Once selected for a national team for a major Games athletes must sign a contract prohibiting them from profiling their sponsor(s) for a period preceding, during and after the Games. The government should not be able to have it both ways; those who support the athlete should receive the profile. This fact may be a major reason as to why corporate sponsors are so hard to come by.

Our athletes also need support in terms of training and competition facilities. Ottawa, for example – Canada’s Capital and the home of Athletics Canada, the national sports governing body for track and field – has no indoor training facility. The federal government can find money to help professional football teams with stadium costs in Montreal, has promised money for construction of football stadiums in Quebec City and Halifax if the CFL expands there, spends millions on advertising in pro sport facilities such as the Corel Center and Jetform Park, Ottawa’s minor league baseball stadium, but is nowhere to be seen when it comes to an indoor track facility. The City of Ottawa, which paid for the building of Jetform park, a facility that is only used for professional baseball, has over 40 ice surfaces and is looking at building more but is not committed to building one indoor track.

At the corporate level, Canada is far behind other countries in supporting amateur sport. With some exceptions, corporate Canada prefers to support mercenary sport where the average athlete’s salary exceeds one million dollars. At the individual level the story seems to be the same. At a single NHL hockey game – and each team plays over 80 games to get to a playoff system where over half the teams make it – individuals collectively spend an amount that exceeds one-half of Athletics Canada’s yearly budget! Corporations collectively spend even more in a single night but when it comes to supporting our amateur athletes most individuals and corporations cannot “afford” it.

The Athens Olympics are two short years away. Canada should have already made major increases in support of our athletes aspiring to these games. We can expect, instead, to see a lot of talk and photo opps in the 6 months prior to the Games when it will be too late to help our athletes develop.

A recent letter to the Toronto Star made the following point:
“The sad fact is that any international success our athletes have enjoyed has occurred in spite of the federal government and the Canadian private sector. We do, however, lead the world when it comes to commissions studying the state of amateur athletics. I dare say that if half the cash that we spend on government studies on the state of amateur sports was simply paid out to our athletes, then more of our young people would be inclined to devote years of their lives to the Olympic dream.”

Our athletes who compete for the love of their sport deserve better.

It’s time for Canadians to say, “Show me the money!” when it comes to funding our athletes.

Ken Parker is a longtime runner, coach, race organizer and his company, Sirius Consulting Group, has been a sponsor of triathlete Sharon Donnelly, 1999 Pan American Games Champion and Sydney Olympian, since 1997 and also sponsors several local age-group teams.

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.

Friday, June 21, 2002

Top producers will be rewarded with more cash
From the Globe and Mail June 20, 2002:
The Canadians Olympic Committee is dropping notions of political correctness or treating all sports the same.

Jim Thompson, the COC's chief executive officer, said the COC recognizes the reality that some sports are better run than others and produce winners for Canada. Those athletes and sports will now hear the jingle of cash to accompany the clink of their medals.

"It's time to reward success," Thompson said in sowing $6.8-million among 45 Olympic and seven Pan American Games sports yesterday. The COC's high-performance support program is weighted toward winners. Of the $6.8-million, $5.25-million went to sports federations, $920,000 directly to athletes, and $650,000 to coaches whose programs achieve success.

From a letter sent to the editor, Globe and Mail, June 20, 2002:

Firstly, the headline should have read "Top producers will be rewarded with (more) cash."

If Canada provided grass-roots, developmental funding an facilities, the new COC funding would not necessarily be a bad thing.

However Canada does not.

The Globe article says that, "But the COC, which changed guard under Thompson 10 weeks ago, will be unapologetic about going for gold, and podium visibility sits well with corporate sponsors who chipped in for the high-performance payouts. Patricia Straker, director of sponsorships for the RBC Financial Group, said "your Olympic partners want to help the COC create more Beckie Scotts and Marc Gagnons."

That is not what the program will do. It will not "create" more Beckie Scotts. To do that it would have to fund developmental programs. The COC program will reward athletes who have made it despite the lack of support - athletes like triathlete Simon Whitfield. Obviously no one asked him his opinion because in an article - in the Globe by the way - last week he said:

"Unfortunately, the way the system is set up, you often get support when you don't need it, but don't have the support when you start.
"They've got a program that rewards you when you get a gold medal, which is totally illogical. Once you win the gold medal, you don't need as much support. When you're trying to get better, that's when you need it."

As a proud sponsor of Olympic triathlete and 2002 Canadian champion, Sharon Donnelly, since 1997, long before she qualified for the Olympics, I am proud that my company, Sirius Consulting, was able to play a role, however small, in helping Sharon on her journey to Olympian status. Canada could use more sponsors getting involved helping the athletes make it to the top as opposed to billboarding them after they achieve success on their own. It appears that if the private sector does not provide financial assistance there will be none forthcoming because our government still thinks it is okay to require our athletes to pay their own expenses when attending international events on Canada's behalf.