The future of ski jumping in Canada is in limbo after 80 years, with the Canada Olympic Park facilities in Calgary closing at the end of this year and no long-term funding planned for the Vancouver 2010 facilities in the Callaghan Valley.
The Canadian Ski and Snowboard Association, the parent federation of nine winter sports, is backing Ski Jumping Canada and Nordic Combined Canada in their ongoing battle for support from the Calgary Olympic Development Association, the Vancouver Organizing Committee, Sport Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee.
Brent Morrice, the chairman of Ski Jumping Canada, said he couldnt comment on the situation, except to say that their position hasnt changed.
"There is still a chance," he said recently. "What were doing at Ski Jumping Canada is talking to all of our funding partners, CODA, VANOC, Sport Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee, to outline whats best for Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined in the future. Were still in the process of seeing if we can see some new program funding of the dollars that the federal government is putting into the system."
Ski Jumping Canada also has some ideas how to create a lasting legacy for the sport, either in Calgary or in the Callaghan Valley, which they will present to VANOC and partners at a meeting on Feb. 3.
In December, the Calgary Olympic Development Agency, which operates Canada Olympic Park, announced that they would be seeking the permission of Sport Canada to stop providing financial support for both Ski Jumping Canada and Nordic Combined Canada, about $300,000 a year for each sport. In addition, they would no longer spend $450,000 a year to fund the 1988 Olympic jump sites at Canada Olympic Park
According to CODAs agreement with the federal government, when the organization was allowed to purchase the Calgary Olympic Park facilities for a dollar, CODA was responsible for funding the maintenance of the ski jumps, speed skating oval and other legacies at the site.
CODA now claims that they cant afford to continue to fund all sports, and cut Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined because these are two winter sports where Canadians are struggling just to qualify for the Olympics. Instead, in keeping with Sport Canadas new policies, they want to put the money where Canada has the best chance of winning medals.
Ski Jumping Canada acknowledges that it has not had much success since the 1988 Olympics, but points to the results being posted by young jumpers in the Continental Cup series. One jumper, Stefan Reader, has even met the International Olympic Committee criteria to compete in 2006, although he still has to meet Canadas national criteria.
"Well know more after Feb. 3," said Morrice.
The timing is critical, with CODA planning to cut funding to the program after March.
In addition to CODAs decision, Ski Jumping Canada has also had to deal with news that the Vancouver Organizing Committee wont be building any additional training facilities in the Callaghan Valley, just the two jumps required by the IOC. Also, VANOC may only build a temporary facility, citing a lack of funding for the long-term viability of the sport.
Timing is also critical with that issue, as construction is scheduled to start in the late spring.
Ski Jumping Canada is not looking to maintain two facilities in Canada, but rather to ensure that at least one facility is kept open for year round training and events.