The economic climate has not put a dent in Canada’s plan to own the podium at the Vancouver Olympics, according to Canadian Olympic Committee CEO Chris Rudge.
“Because of the excitement of having the Games at home, (Olympians) are drawing an awful lot more money than we’ve ever had in the system,” Rudge said. “But whether we’d have more without the downturn, it’s difficult to qualify.”
The actual Own the Podium initiative — a collaborative effort involving national sport organizations, government and corporate sponsors — is unaffected by the downturn, Rudge said. That program puts $18,000 tax-free dollars in the pockets of 1,200 top athletes and $12,000 into those of 600 more.
“Own the Podium is fully funded through 2010,” Rudge said. “Everyone is following through on their commitments. That program is not suffering at all.”
Rudge did concede that non-carded athletes trying to self-fund could be affected by the economy. In fact, he knows first-hand. His daughter, Diane, is a half-pipe snowboarder, and, as he puts it, is “living off the bank of mom and dad.”
“It takes a tremendous amount of sacrifice,” said Rudge, of athletes in similar situations to his daughter’s.
When asked if athletes for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London will be impacted negatively, Rudge said the financial support system will be much stronger than it was for Beijing in 2008. He said Vancouver 2010 has generated so much excitement that London 2012 is building off the momentum.
“The biggest legacy of these Games is going to be the creation of programs like Own the Podium,” he said. “Better funded, better focused, setting goals, going in saying, ‘We want to win.’ That’s something we didn’t do in the past.”