Own The Podium lives on 

Federal budget provides full funding to high performance sports program

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At the start of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, the future prospects for Own The Podium seemed bleak. At that point the federal government committed just $11 million of the $22 million requested to fund Canadian winter sports organizations, explaining that times were tough and that there was no additional funding available.

Whether it was the sight of so many Canadian flags across Canada, the record television audiences for Olympic events, or Canada's incredible gold medal run - 14, a record for any nation at a Winter Games - Stephen Harper's government had a change of heart last Thursday, doubling funding for Own The Podium in the latest federal budget.

Or was it a change of hearts, as some are reporting? Roger Jackson, the CEO of Own The Podium, says the budget for sports funding was too evolved to have come overnight, and suspects that some form of increase was in the cards all along.

"Obviously there was some thought put into this by government, because they presented such a balanced sport portfolio, an opportunity in a budget that wasn't particularly big on new opportunities," he said. "There was the fact that they gave money to the Canadian Paralympic Committee, to the Special Olympics, to Participaction and to Own The Podium. They covered a broad area of sports participations; children and people through Participaction; people with disabilities through the Special Olympics and the Paralympic Committee, and to high performance and elite athletes through Own The Podium. It strikes me as a very thoughtful and comprehensive approach."

But while Jackson doesn't believe the budget was drafted overnight, he's also sure that the Olympics themselves helped.

"I'm sure that government was very positively influenced by the enormous reaction and pride the Canadian public had in the performance of the Canadian team, as well as the performance of Vancouver and Whistler in hosting the Games," he said.

The total budget for Own The Podium over more than five years leading up to 2010 was $117 million, with $55 million from the federal government and the remainder from VANOC, the Province of B.C., Olympic sponsors and fundraising efforts like the sale of red mittens.

In 2009 Own The Podium contributed almost $24 million to national sports organizations.

As well as doubling the funding for winter sports to $22 million, the federal government last week also increased funding for Own The Podium's summer Olympics and Paralympics program by $6 million a year. An additional $10 million over two years was also allocated to identify and develop elite athletes.

Participaction will receive $6 million a year for two years, the Canadian Paralympic Committee will receive $10 million over two years and Special Olympics Canada $2 million over two years.

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