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VANOC pondering ski jumping legacy

It won’t be in the Callaghan, and ski jumping, Nordic combined could be homeless if Calgary facility closes



The future of ski jumping and Nordic combined in Canada is still up in the air after the major players were unable to come up with a solution that would guarantee funding for both sports, as well as a long-term facility.

On Feb. 3, representatives from Ski Jumping Canada, Nordic Combined Canada, the Calgary Olympic Development Association (CODA), the 2010 Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC), the Canadian Ski and Snowboard Association (CSSA) and Sport Canada met in Calgary to discuss the options for keeping these Olympic sports alive. Although all sides presented their views and several options were tabled, no agreements were reached.

"It’s up in the air," said Brent Morrice, the chair of Ski Jumping Canada. "The future of ski jumping and Nordic combined in this country is definitely in a bad state right now."

The first blow to ski jumping and Nordic combined came in December when CODA announced that it was cutting $150,000 in funding from each sport. Furthermore, they said they would ask the federal government’s permission to close the ski jumping facilities at Calgary Olympic Park, a legacy from the 1988 Games that CODA pledged to keep open in exchange for the lands. The estimated cost for running the facility is $250,000 annually, although approximately $750,000 in upgrades are required on the existing jumps.

The second blow came two weeks ago when VANOC confirmed that it was no longer building a permanent jumping facility, including summer training facilities, in the Callaghan Valley, as specified in the bid. Instead, the facility will be taken down shortly after the 2010 Games.

According to VANOC CEO John Furlong, it was a tough decision to make.

"The job we have is to do the responsible thing," he said. "We have decided for now that we are building the venue we have to build for the Games. We are watching what is going on in Calgary, we are watching what is going on with the sport, and we will do the best we can to get a result that is the right one."

For Morrice, the time is running out with CODA cutting funding after March 31. In addition, CODA has not said whether or not it will keep the Calgary jumping facility open for summer training until they have an answer from the federal government.

VANOC’s decision came as a surprise to Ski Jumping Canada, Morrice says – if CODA was successful in closing the Calgary facility, Ski Jumping Canada had planned to relocate to the Whistler facilities once they were completed.

"That means there’s no legacy, and in the bid book there were legacy commitments to each and every one of the sports, and what we’re hearing now from VANOC is that there’s no money for legacy commitments."