The Alberta government, flush with billions of dollars in tax revenues from soaring energy prices, has decided how it will spend at least some of that windfall.
Last week the Alberta Lottery Fund provided the Calgary Olympic Development Association with $600,000 to upgrade the ski jumps and training facilities in Calgary Olympic Park. In exchange, CODA has agreed to provide an additional $200,000 per year to cover the operating costs of the facility through to the 2010 Winter Games.
"We really had some great news last week," said Brent Morrice, chairman of Ski Jumping Canada. "It means we will have ski jumpers out in 2010 representing Canada. If CODA and the Province of Alberta didnt come up with this funding, Im not sure we could have managed that."
The announcement comes as CODA was applying for permission from Sport Canada and the federal government to cease funding for the ski jump facilities, while also withdrawing operational funding from Ski Jumping Canada and Nordic Combined Canada.
CODA originally agreed to fund the jumps as part of a land transfer agreement with the federal government signed before the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, but claimed there wasnt enough interest in the sport or enough money to cover the facility upgrades to continue to justify the expense.
The facility funding was supposed to dry up in the spring, but was continued to give stakeholders more time to work out a solution. However, even the Canadian Olympic Committee was not sure a solution could be reached, and suggested the possibility of sending Canadian athletes to train in Europe and the U.S.
With most of Canadas top prospects in their teens and in high school, and sending athletes away to train always the last resort for Ski Jumping Canada says Morrice. "It would have been tough," he said.
CODA announced its decision to close the jumps just before the 2010 Vancouver Organizing Committee announced their own plans to build a temporary, competition-only facility in the Callaghan Valley instead of the year-round practice and competition facility outlined in the Olympic bid.
"With the Alberta Lottery Funds investment of $600,000 to address critical capital needs, CODA will operate the complex so that Canadian athletes will have the opportunity to train for 2010," said CODA president John Mills. "With modern training facilities, this partnership gives new life to the sports of ski jumping and Nordic combined, and guarantees the road to Vancouver will continue to wind through Alberta."
Previous to the new agreement, Ski Jumping Canada and Nordic Combined received $189,000 per year from CODA to cover the organizations operational costs. However, the $200,000 per year from CODA through 2010 will only cover the costs of running the ski jumps, which means both organizations are still looking for funding to help with coaching, administrative costs, travel, and other expenses.
Both organizations were promised funding from the Canadian Olympic Committees Own The Podium program, if it is fully funded by $110 million. Own the Podium would bolster Ski Jumping Canada funding by $484,000 per year and Nordic Combined funding by $424,000. Both organizations are also actively looking for new sponsors.
Canada has not qualified any athletes to compete in ski jumping for the past three Olympics, and the last athlete to qualify in 1992 finished at the back of the pack in Albertville. However, Greg Baxter and Stefan Read of Calgary have already met the International Olympic Committees qualifying standards for the 2006 Winter Games. In addition, Trevor Morrice of the junior development team has qualified to compete one level down from the World Cup on the Continental Cup circuit.