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LegaciesNow’s future up in the air

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Mandate for organization expires in December

Canada has the unique stigma of being the only country never to win an Olympic gold medal at home. We were stumped in Montreal in ’76 and in Calgary in ’88. The organizers of the bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler are determined not to let that happen again.

The LegaciesNow program, which was launched in June 2000 – more than three years before the International Olympic Committee’s final decision on the 2010 Games – was created to give young athletes a head-start on the competition.

According to studies, it takes 10,000 hours of training and 10 to 12 years to develop an Olympic champion. If Canada and B.C. wanted to win gold at home in 2010, they couldn’t wait for the IOC’s decision on July 2.

Brian Pound, the director of media relations for LegaciesNow for the past 14 months, says that the desire to win at home and the LegaciesNow program helped Vancouver to win the Canadian nomination against competing bids from Quebec City and Calgary back in 1998.

"The early focus on youth development and making future champions was a big part of why we were successful," he said.

Once Vancouver’s bid was successful, winning the Games over South Korea and Austria on July 2, the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation entered a period of transition. That includes the LegaciesNow program.

"We’re basically waiting to hear what will be happening with LegaciesNow, and what direction we will be going in," said Pound. "We don’t know when we’ll hear, but sooner is definitely better than later.

"There’s no question that LegaciesNow has made a tremendous difference to the sport system in the province, and in Canada as well, and we want to be able to carry on with that role."

LegaciesNow’s mandate runs out in December. After that time it will need new funding and a new mandate to continue.

The entire bid for 2010 was budgeted at $34 million, including $5 million for LegaciesNow. That money has been channelled into dozens of programs and organizations.

One example is the Telus Whistler Sport Centre, which provides services and support for active national team athletes and sports organizations, while helping to develop coaches and programs for younger athletes. Representatives of the centre have toured the province, scouting for talent in a variety of Winter Olympic sports, including biathlon, sliding sports, Nordic Combined, and ski jumping. If potential athletes are identified, the Sport Centre has paid to send those youths to training camps at the Canadian Olympic Centre in Calgary.

"The (Telus) Whistler Sport Centre has had a tremendous impact in a short time, and like us, they are in waiting mode as well, waiting to hear what’s happening," said Pound.

Samples of other LegaciesNow programs include:

• An athlete grant program, administered through PacificSport, to help elite and development level athletes cover travelling costs;

• Co-funding the creation of SportFit (www.sportfitbc.com), an Internet program that introduces winter sports to children, helps them to decide what sports they might be best suited for, and directs them towards sport organizations, and training information;

• Money to fund extracurricular activities in B.C. schools;

• Money for KidSport, a provincial program that helps youth to afford athletic equipment and registration fees for approved sports;

• Money for PacificSport and the Canadian Sport Centre in Vancouver;

• Grants to the YWCA for athlete mentorship and employment programs;

• Grants for the B.C. Amateur Hockey Association to help fund training for female athletes;

• Grants to the B.C. Wheelchair Sports Association for future Paralympians to rent specialized wheelchairs so athletes can try different sports.

LegaciesNow programs are focused on three areas; sport development, community capacity building, and a province-wide community outreach program. It was created and funded by the province, the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation, and corporate supporters.

Sport organizations around the province were the biggest beneficiaries of LegaciesNow, said Pound, bringing them together so they could share facilities and expertise, while responding to their immediate needs.

"Very definitely there was a need for a project like LegaciesNow, and there have been a lot of positive changes to come about in the last couple of years that LegaciesNow has been in place," he said. "Our goal is to basically put athletes on a podium in 2010, and all of our programs were built around that goal. I think LegaciesNow has complemented these sport organizations beautifully, and we’ve put athletes on the road to bigger and better things."

The Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation disbanded on July 18, leaving a transition team of 10 people to run the show until the official organizing committee for the Olympic Games can be established this fall. The future of LegaciesNow and the Telus Whistler Sport Centre will not be decided until then, unless the province or corporate bid partners come forward with funding.

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