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Athletes, coaches starting to benefit from 2010 Olympic bid

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Although the International Olympic Committee won’t decide who gets to the host the 2010 Winter Olympics until July of 2003, Canadian athletes are already starting to benefit from the bid.

Regional sport centres throughout B.C. have already received $300,000 in funding for sport and athlete development, and the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Olympic Bid Corporation still has a $2.2 million commitment to the LegaciesNOW program.

LegaciesNOW is a commitment to province-wide sports development that will leave what bid partners hope is a permanent legacy for B.C. and Canadian athletes. Funding will provide better access to services, enhancements to sport science and medicine services, as well as improved coaching and education opportunities for athletes and coaches.

"Young athletes who are striving for excellence will benefit from these programs, no matter where they live in British Columbia," said Gerard Janssen, the minister responsible for sport. "And they’ll benefit now, rather than after the Games in 2010."

With Whistler hosting the alpine and freestyle skiing and snowboarding events, and probably also the nordic, ski jumping, and luge events, some of that funding will find its way to Whistler. The Resort Municipality of Whistler has already posted an employment notice for a general manager to run the Telus International Sports Centre (Telus-ISC).

"The person who will end up becoming the G.M. will work to provide a series of services that (bid partner and regional sports centre administrator) PacificSport has established," says Bob Kusch, who is overseeing the hiring for the RMOW.

"The most well known service and the most successful one right now is GymWorks, where any athlete that is carded and has a certain level of podium experience – in other words, they’ve won at some level – gets a free admission to a variety of gyms throughout B.C. Meadow Park Sports Centre is one of them."

Sports centres in Prince George, Nanaimo, Kamloops, the Okanagan, Abbotsford, Victoria and Vancouver also participate.

Other proposed services include food programs, transportation programs, and once the program is off the ground, direct funding "to support those athletes and make sure that they’re being taken care of," says Kusch. Similar services are also available to coaches.

Although the services are being offered at some level to many athletes, Kusch hopes that the Telus-ISC will co-ordinate the same services for all athletes, and improve communication between athletic organizations. "I think you’ll see those things will evolve and work much more closely with each other," he says. "There is already communication going on, but things will be much better co-ordinated so athletes know exactly what is available to them."

Other jobs for the general manager of the centre include developing a business plan for the Telus-ISC, developing a winter sport development strategy for the Whistler Region and an outreach strategy for the province, and implementing LegaciesNOW services.

In the future, Kusch sees the role of the Telus-ISC expanding to include dedicated training facilities and believes the organization will be able to generate its own funding once people see the benefits of co-ordinated services for Olympic-calibre athletes under one roof.

"One of the things the G.M. will be charged with is to find ways to seek out funding to make (Telus-ISC) self-sustaining, or developing it to the point that Sport Canada, the Canadian Olympic Association, and federal and provincial governments can’t afford not to fund it," says Kusch.

The general manager position is a 15-month contract, and generally dependent on the success or failure of the bid, but it could easily run for much longer if alternative sources of funding can be found in time.

"That’s the reason it’s only a 15-month contract, but I’m hoping at the end of that time the answer will be ‘yes’," Kusch says. "The LegacyNow funding is limited to the 2010 bid, and the 2010 program and funding would disappear, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t find other funding if it were proven to be worthwhile."

With Bid Corporation members likely prepared to bid again for the 2014 and 2018 winter Olympics if necessary, Kusch says funding for athletes and sports development will likely continue to be a priority.

LegaciesNOW is supported by the province, Telus, PacificSport, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, and the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Bid Corporation.

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