Letters to the editor 

Put athletes before the hype

The collective shouts of joy emanating from Canadians in Prague, Vancouver, Whistler, and beyond, signalled not only the successful culmination of years of work by the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation, but also the dawning of what many (especially Gordo's gang in Victoria) hope to be a "new era" in BC.

If we are to believe the powers that be, economic recovery is starting yesterday and the legacies of these games will ensure that present and future generations of BC'ers will enjoy improved transportation systems, new and improved sports venues, and a cash infusion from the hordes of tourists sure to follow post-2010.

I for one believe that Gordo might be on to something for once. It is hard not to get caught up in the excitement, and who (beside the NIMBY’S who seem to feel Whistler is theirs because they got here a few years before the rest of us) can complain about an improved highway and additional post-2010 housing in Whistler.

However, lost in the hype of the 600 million dollar highway and the fancy Roots hats, are the foundation of this event – the athletes. For every Gretzky, Le May Doan, and Brassard, there are countless amateur athletes across Canada struggling to get by on non-existent or paltry funding and/or part-time jobs.

As many ex-pat Aussies in Whistler could attest, the "wonder from down under" scored 16 golds at their hometown games (Sydney 2000). Their athletes did this with financial support to a tune of $125 million CDN. Canada, even with a larger population base, threw a grand total of $85 million at our team!

With a history of federal "support" like this, it should come as no surprise that Canada has the dubious distinction of hosting both the Summer and Winter Games (Montreal '76 & Calgary '88) and bringing home zero gold medals from both! You can talk about the legacies until you are blue in the face, but three silvers in two "hometown" games sucks by any definition. And before you point to improved totals since ‘88, consider that most of the success stories were from professionals (men’s hockey in '02) or from athletes who succeeded DESPITE this lack of funding. Ask them about their bank loans, car washes, part-time jobs, etc.

If the 2010 Games are to be a true success, the same players who stepped up to secure this bid need to ensure that we start funding our amateur athletes now!

I challenge Chretien, Paul Martin, Shiela Copps, Gordo et al. to step up to the plate and demonstrate that their involvement was/is more than a photo opportunity in Canada’s colours. After all, there are athletes currently living below the poverty line that would like to have their chance to wear those colours with pride 6.5 years from now.

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