How your tax dollars help support Team Canada
Many Olympic athletes rely on public funding to support them while they train and allow travel for games
February 14, 2014, 10:46 PM AST
Last updated February 16, 2014, 8:28 PM AST
If balancing a full-time course load and an after-school job is difficult, imagine adding multiple hours a day of training to your schedule. Trying to work, study and train is next to impossible for many members of Canadian Olympic team, so they rely on government funding and private sponsors to allow them to pursue a gold medal.
Nova Scotian David Sharpe participated in the London 2012 Summer Olympics in the 200m butterfly and relied on public funding to train and participate. Sharpe has been swimming since he was a six-year-old with the Halifax Trojans.
Sharpe says he would not have been able to train or participate in the Olympics would it have not been for funding. “You don’t have enough time when you’re training for a job, it takes so much time and so much energy, school, job and training, you just can’t do it. Especially if you’re in school you have to have some kind of funding to be able to train enough.”
Funding for Olympians comes for several places, such as not-for-profit organizations, committees and sponsors. Own the Podium (OTP), a major contributor to the Olympics, was created before the Vancouver Olympics in order to help Canadian’s win on their home soil and is largely publicly funded.
OTP is a not-for-profit organization that prioritizes and determines investment strategies to national sport organizations in an effort to deliver more Olympic and Paralympic medals for Canada.
The organization is in partnership with Sport Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee. In 2013 OTP received $2,273,000 from the Government of Canada and $555,000 from the Government of Ontario in public funding. It also received $3,775,414 from the Canadian Olympic Committee, a portion of which is publicly funded.
Funding also comes from places like the International Olympic Committee (ICO), which receives funds from broadcast costs, sponsorships, ticket sales and licensing.
Local Olympic athlete
Sharpe says funding comes from a variety of sources, both public and private, from either Canadian Olympic Committee or provincial and federal funding.
The funding he received allowed him to travel around the world representing Team Canada at a number of competitions. “If you don’t have those experiences from travelling you won’t have the experience to be good enough,” he says.
Sharpe says it’s important to support the Olympics and Olympians, as they can inspire children to become active and pursue Olympic sports.
He says the Halifax Trojans Club had between 150 and 200 members in the 12 years he swam as a member competitively.
“In the last two years, since I made the Olympics it’s gone up to between 250 and 300 members,” he said.
Effect on grassroots sports
Although there is a pattern in countries that invest more money in Olympians, and the amount of medals they win, David Black, director of Dalhousie’s Centre for Foreign Policy Studies, says that he doesn’t think it actually benefits the local area.
“The real risk here is that in investing heavily in elite sport, we neglect grassroots sports,” says Black. His concern is that although the intention is to attract more young people to play sports by winning medals at the Olympics by giving them more funds, there is no real correlation. Instead, he said, there is far more benefit from investing in participatory programs at more of a local level.
Sharpe, who is currently training for the next summer Games, says that caring about the Olympics is changing Nova Scotia. “When a kid sees that someone from their town in this sport in going to the Olympics, they want to do it,” he says.