Sami Jo Small, an Olympic hockey player announces a boost in funding for the “Own the Podium” program for elite athletes hoping to win Olympic medals.
Photo Credit: CBC

Extra funding to increase Olympic medals


The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) will increase the money it spends on high performance sports over the next four years in a bid to increase Canada’s Olympic medal count. The funding will go from $25 million spent between 2009 and 2012 to $37 for the next four years. Some of the increase will come from corporate sponsors who were heavily solicited after the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. Almost 90 per cent of the program’s funding comes from the Canadian government.

“Own the Podium” is the name of the plan the COC devised to give top athletes money for better training or technology. It was supposed to give them an added push to get them to the medal podium. Beginning with the Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games, Canadian athletes did win a record 14 gold medals. The goal is to improve on that at the Sochi Winter Games in February.

Extra money, not necessarily extra medals

Extra funding doesn’t always translate into extra medals, particularly if other countries are increasing funding for their own athletes, says Dan Mason, professor of sport management at the University of Alberta. “Increased funding should, all thing being equal, result in better performance. However this type of performance doesn’t occur in a vacuum…,” says Mason. “ I think it’s a very tricky proposition in the sense that you shouldn’t necessarily just think that just pumping money into these types of programs is going to result in success.”

Hockey players are not likely to be recipients of the extra funding because they are already well funded through the professional National Hockey League, says Mason. More likely extra money will help athletes like those who are ranked fifth to seventh and could you help like better wax for skis, or new technology for sleds.

Canadians are in favour of more spending to support Olympic athletes, says Mason, having researched the subject with colleagues at the University of Alberta. So he says, the increase makes sense from a public policy point of view.

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