VANCOUVER, B.C. – Canadians are waking up after their smashing success at hosting the 2010 Winter Games with something akin to post-coital bliss, a Canadian Press-Harris Decima survey has found.
The poll suggested that of the more than 1,000 people polled between Thursday and Sunday, almost no one – only one per cent – was unhappy with the performance of Canada’s athletes.
Of those, 65 per cent said they were “very satisfied” and the rest were merely satisfied in the poll.
But the poll also indicated that as euphoria fades, the resolve to bask in the love affair could weaken as the federal government and the provinces begin introducing what are expected to be cost-cutting budgets in the days to come.
British Columbia tables its budget Tuesday and the federal government releases its on Thursday.
Doug Anderson, a senior vice-president with Harris Decima, said the satisfaction numbers regarding the Canadian athletes are virtually unheard of. And many of those responses were gathered even before the Canadian men’s hockey team won the gold medal in overtime Sunday.
“I can only imagine that if we started to do the interviewing after Sidney Crosby scored that goal, the numbers only get better,” Anderson said.
“I can’t remember a time when as many Canadians felt as good about the same thing at the same time.”
The closing ceremonies Sunday wrapped up an unprecedented two-week period that saw Canadians flood onto Vancouver streets, creating a red-and-white human tapestry of patriotic clothing, flags and face paint.
By Monday morning, the streets were being swept clean, the airport was clogged with visitors heading home and politicians at all levels of government were talking about how to maintain the nationalist momentum.
Previous Harris Decima polls have found Canadians would especially consider the Games a success if the country won hockey gold. John Furlong, head of the Vancouver organizing committee, said that sentiment played out Sunday with the response to the overtime win.
“We gave Canada what it wanted,” Furlong said Monday, noting he looked at a television screen after the game and saw a sea of people clogging the street. He realized the street was in Toronto, not in Vancouver.
“It was happening all over Canada.”
The Harris Decima poll, which was reliable within 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20, found half of the Canadians surveyed felt athletes don’t receive enough funding from their governments. Only seven per cent felt they receive too much.
But 62 per cent of respondents said they weren’t very familiar with Own the Podium, the $117-million program the federal government and Olympic organizers created to back Canadian athletes in their quest to win the most medals of any country.
Canada fell short of that goal by winning the third most medals. But Canada did win the most gold medals ever of any country at a Winter Olympics with its 14 gold medals.
With the Games over, the money from Olympic organizers and the provinces dries up and there have been few further pledges for support.
The federal government has promised to maintain its $11 million support for this year, but the Own the Podium program has had an average of $23.4 million a year to spend on its winter athletes.
B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell said Monday the province will continue its support, but he said the details would be available later.
Anderson said the lack of knowledge about the program among poll respondents and the relative softness of the support – 72 per cent said the program is a good one, but only 12 per cent said it was very good – means voters and therefore governments might start focusing on other priorities.
“You get an atmosphere where people are generally on side, if softly so, for continuing the Own the Podium as it is,” Anderson said.
But “if they’re forced to choose between programs that are highly valued like health care or education in exchange for supporting amateur sport I think that’s the kind of time … when the softness can show through or be eroded.”