Sat, August 23, 2008

Money brings in more medals

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Money means medals.

If there was ever an Olympics to prove it – coming and going – it's been Beijing 2008.

If you want your athletes to win Olympic medals, to provide inspiration and create dreams for the youth of your nation, it's real simple. Spend money.

Provide the funds for coaching, training, travel, competition and take your athletes off Kraft Dinner diets and the medals will come.

Canada, with three gold, nine silver and six bronze for a total of 18, has won more medals here than at Sydney 2000 (14) or Athens 2004 (12) simply because of a few extra coins tossed the summer programs way as a result of all the money we're spending to have a top-of-the-tables team at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

But the real studies here are Great Britain, host of London 2012, Beijing 2008 host China and Sydney 2000 host Australia.

China, of course, is obvious. A dozen years ago in Atlanta 1996 China won 16 gold and 50 medals overall. The hosts go into the final day of these Games with 47 gold and 90 medals. Money was no object in making their coming-out-party a success on and off the fields of play.

The Australians spent big to have a 58-medal success at Sydney 2000. But their numbers are dropping off here and the reaction has been instant back home says Canadian Olympic Committee CEO Chris Rudge.

“Australia coasted for a while. I'm told from an inside source that because of the drop off here, they've decided they can't let that happen and the government is going to put $100 million into the program almost immediately.”

Canada has been doing the same thing as Britian and China these past four years, pouring massive amounts of money into building an “Own the Podium” Olympic team to win a multitude of medals as host.

Look at Great Britain at these Olympics.

“They're knocking it out of the park,” says Rudge.

Four Olympics ago there was no Great in Great Britain. The Brits won one gold medal and a Canadian-like total of 15 medals overall. In 2000 the total went up to 28 medals and 2004 to 30.

Heading home in these Olympics, the nation which is spending 600 million pounds on the Olympic run up to London 2012, has 18 gold medals after winning nine four years ago, and a total of 45 medals overall.

“They've put 300 or 400 million pounds into the program over the last three or four years. The results speak for themselves,” said Rudge.

“The challenge now is to turn what has been two weeks of great success into 10 years of sporting triumph for our country,” said British P.M. Gordon Brown here the other day.

The challenge for Canada is to find more and more money to put into the program so our populace doesn't have to flog themselves for seven days waiting for the first medal.

There's no reason Canada can't aspire to match Great Britain or Australia.

“It's pretty simple,” said Rudge of our summer program and future Winter Olympic programs after Vancouver 2010 is a warm and fuzzy memory.

“Do you want to have nice kids trying hard finishing 13th?”

The COC has changed the way they see themselves and the way they do it.

“We're not just providing care and comfort for our athletes any more,” says Rudge.

The CEO is determined for find the money to give those nice kids a chance to try hard and finish on the podium.

“We have $24 million which is starting to come in from the last federal budget,” he said. “It should show itself with a greater success in London. We asked for $30 million. Maybe Prime Minister Harper should look what happened here and go back and get us the other $6 million.

“We have not had a political leader until now who has had a great passion for sports or the understanding of the great benefits and what a great investment it is in our youth.

There's never been a politician in Canada who lost his seat by voting to put money into sport.”

Rudge said it's just, well, loony that we haven't been doing it until we finally decided to do it because of the Vancouver 2010 hosting.

“It works out to $1 per Canadian per year.”

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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