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Supporting athletes online

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Every two to four years, Canadian editorial pages are filled with calls to increase funding and support for our national athletes. Every two to four years the population agrees, overwhelmingly supporting additional funding for sports and athletes.

When the sports media focuses elsewhere, usually on exhaustive hockey coverage, columnists and readers generally stop caring.

Sports funding was not an election issue. In the last federal election it didn’t even rank in the top-10, with people more interested in jobs, health care, education, trade, the environment and other hot button issues.

Here’s the thing. While most people would probably support some kind of additional sports funding, only a fraction of those would support a tax increase to pay for it. The idea of raising money through lotteries is popular, but the majority of that money is already spoken for. The idea of targetted lotteries – lotteries to benefit education, lotteries to benefit sports – have been suggested, but have already been dismissed as impractical.

Corporations have been asked to play a greater role in funding our athletes, and quite a few have even answered the call, but our sports programs are more in need of secure, long-term funding at all levels of athletics than a temporary fix.

The government may find more funding in the budget for athletes if public outrage over our medal tally hangs around long enough after this Olympic cycle, but some pundits are suggesting that the entire sports funding system needs an overhaul to ensure that the new funding goes where it’s needed the most.

Chances are nothing will happen. A few sports will get a boost from the 2004 Games and a few sports will drop even further off the radar screen. As a nation we’ll get used to our mediocrity in the world of sports.

Or you could do something about it.

If you really and truly believe that we should be spending more on our athletes and would be willing to pay more in taxes to do so, why not just eliminate the middle man and contribute directly to your favourite sports? Most of our national sports organizations are non-profit societies and can present you with tax receipts for your donations. Others are constantly running contests and holding fundraisers.

A successful sporting organization will host all kinds of public participation events in addition to applying to the government and corporations for funding, which in the end raises the profile of the sport.

If you really care to see our athletes do well, then stop yapping about it and put your money where your mouth is.

A good place to start is the Athletes CAN Web site at www.athletescan.com. This is a Web site for Canadian athletes, with articles on various issues and information on various government programs. Click on the Sport Links tab and you’ll get a complete list of Canadian Sport Centres, including the PacificSport centre in Victoria, as well as our National Sport Organizations. Follow the links to the sports you’d like to support and find out how you can support them or make a contribution.

The Sport Canada Web site at www.pch.gc.ca/sportscanada/ has a similar list under the tab for Sport Federations.

The Canadian Olympic Committee site at www.olympic.ca has a banner ad urging you to support Canada’s high performance athletes. Click on it and you’ll find yourself at the home page for the Canadian Olympic Excellence Fund and a link to an online donation form. You can also buy sweatshirts, gold medal plates and other merchandise with the proceeds going to our amateur athletes. You can’t pick what sports to fund, but you can earmark your donation directly to high performance preparation, athlete assistance, coaching or our national sport centres.

Police want e-mail access

When the nation’s police chiefs met in Vancouver this week for an annual conference, one of the hot topics on the list was a proposal to amend government statutes to allow for more snooping on e-mail, Internet activities and other electronic records. They tabled proposed "lawful access" measures on Wednesday, Aug. 18 spelling their case for more access to Canadian computers and computer users.

Although privacy advocates are horrified, the police chiefs say they need the measure to crack down on organized crime, e-fraud, child pornography, Internet stalking, Internet predators, terrorism, identity theft, software and copyrighted content theft, and other crimes that use current technology.

If the measures are adopted at the federal level, Internet Service Providers would have to rebuild their systems to allow police to access their databases of information.

PC still the Gamers first online choice

Despite selling more than 70 million units around the world, Sony Playstation 2 and Microsoft X-box customers still only represent a small percentage of the number of gamers going online. According to a new study by the NPD Group titled Online Gaming: The Consumer Perspective for PC and Video Games, only 40 per cent of PS2 and X-box users are playing games online, compared to 60 per cent of PC users. And there are far more PC users out there than console owners.

In addition, gamers who have both a console and a computer are still more likely to use the computer for online gaming.

The study didn’t go into explanations, but the most obvious reason is cost. Both X-box and PS2 charge users for monthly online gaming services, while many PC gaming hubs are free with the purchase of a game. If you’re already paying for high-speed Internet, this is a cheaper way to go.

PCs also offer a lot more online games than the consoles, which means there is more variety. You can also download many of those games online, which means you don’t have to make a trip to the store to purchase the latest titles. The larger number of PC users also means that there are more people out there to play against.

The technology has also improved, allowing PC games to catch up to the consoles in terms of 3D graphics and playability. Even the remote controls are similar.