Dragon boat project off course

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:06 AM ET

Adam Van Koeverden has nothing against dragon boats, or any vessel that races on the water for that matter.

But when it comes to the proposal for a $23-million publicly-funded facility on the Toronto lakefront, the Canadian Olympic star figures why not spread the wealth.

"If they are going to spend the money, which is really, really good, why not do it right?" the Oakville native said. "It would be like they did building the SkyDome without having room for a track. It would be kind of silly."

The subject of the proposed 650-metre dragon boat course is expected to be a hot one at a public meeting tonight at the National Trade Centre.

At issue is taxpayers' money being designated to help stage dragon boating's 2006 club crew world championship.

Rowers and kayakers are adamant that the dynamics would limit the long-term viability of the course. The Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation, which is scheduled to start construction in August, has maintained the current proposal is the maximum length.

"Toronto of all cities should have (a world-class course). It would be a magnet for the sport," Rowing Canada president John Carmichael said yesterday. "Our waterfront should represent what the city is and that is a leader in this country."

Carmichael applauded that public money will be used to build a facility, something Rowing Canada has advocated for several years now.

"We won't be the mud on this, we want to see it built," Carmichael said. "We just think whoever is making the decisions on this is making some significant errors.

"It's just too short for anybody's real use."

A world-class rowing event needs a 2,000-metre course while kayaking events are contested at 1,000 metres and 500 metres.

The rowing and kayak community is expected to make that point at tonight's meeting of the Waterfront Revitalization Corp., as it prepares to build on the waterfront to the west of Ontario Place.

A longer course, officials in rowing and kayaking believe, would help develop Olympians in two of the strongest disciplines for Canadians in recent Summer Games.

"We all know about kayaking with Adam van Koeverden in the summer and the great successes he had," Carmichael said of the double medallist in Athens. "And rowing is the highest performing medal producer per capita of any summer sport.

Carmichael said a proper course would make it a "no-brainer" for events such as the world rowing championships to be lured to the city.

"The (proposal) is not big enough for anybody," he said. "Get the right facilities once and for all rather than in stages."


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