During the Olympics there was much talk, and criticism, about Own the Podium (OTP), the initiative launched in 2005 to ensure Canadian sports achieved podium performances at the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The initiative has also set a goal for Canadian athletes to have a top-12 placing at the London 2012 Olympic Games and in the top eight nations at the 2012 Paralympic Games.
Approximately half of the funding for the OTP programme came from the Government of Canada, through Sport Canada. VANOC raised the other half through corporate, provincial, territorial, and public support.
The phrase – “Own it” – was claimed to be un-Canadian and viewed as arrogant. Some thought it put extra pressure on Canadian athletes to perform like never before and deliver medal winning performances but as hosts of the 2010 Games the pressure, and expectation, was already there.
Pressure or not, the Canadian athletes did a fantastic job and rose to the challenge. The team set a new all-time high in winning 26 medals, including 14 gold medals – the highest number of gold medals Canada has ever won at any Games, and the most gold medals ever won by any nation at an Olympic Winter Games.
The national feeling and pride increased with every success and by the last day of the Games, capped by the Gold medal in the men’s hockey, Vancouver and cities/towns/communities across Canada, most were going wild with excitement. Canada came alive like never seen before and the shouts of “Go Canada Go” or spontaneous singing of “O Canada” could be heard everywhere.
As the largest contributor of funding and following the Canadian success in February, last week during the Budget, the Federal Government set aside $62m for “encouraging participation” in amateur sports over the next two years, with the lion’s share of that going to Canada’s Olympic-bound elite athletes. This came after much speculation in the days before that funding to sport would be cut back.
The Federal Government’s commitment, to OTP now totals $69 million annually, which includes a base level of funding of $22 million per year that will be directed to winter sport.
For summer sport, the Government’s support is set at $36 million a year which will be invested to athletes preparing for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The remaining $11 million will go toward creating programs targeted to further developing winter and summer athletes and targeted investments into Canadian Sport Centres.
Also part of the package to encourage participation in sports is:
- $10 million over two years for the Canadian Paralympic Committee.
- $2 million over two years for Special Olympics Canada.
- $6 million over two years for ParticipACTION, a public campaign to encourage fitness.