$15B To Revive Canadian Sport

Sun, October 1, 2006

Improving Canada’s athletics will cost billions

The acquisition of Olympic swimming hero Alex Baumann at a considerable expense to lead Canada’s summer athletes into the promised land may actually work.

But architects to refurbish and build necessary sports and recreational facilities will be much costlier.

And no one knows it better than the ministers responsible for sport, physical activity and recreation, particularly in the Province of Ontario. The fellow who is championing for our province is former mayor of Ottawa and current minister responsible for sport in Ontario, Jim Watson.

The numbers he was throwing around are staggering.

"I think the rebuilding and refurbishing of sports and recreational facilities in Ontario would run as high as $5 billion. In Canada, the figure could reach $15 billion. Fortunately, all provincial sport ministers are in agreement with the necessity of investing into a nation’s health and in developing gifted athletes in all sports. Now we have to convince the federal sports minister, Michael Chong.

“We, in Ontario, are doing what is necessary. We started the Quest For Gold lottery and it resulted in a $6 million donation to our amateur athletes. We’ve also spent $3.5 million to open trails for hiking. In fact, we have a $20 million program to bring kids back to sport. We don’t have a lot of money in the province, but we’re doing what we can.”

The facts about the importance of physical activity have been pointed out by Watson’s ministry for some time. He is determined to improve the overall health of Canadians – something shared by all provincial sport ministers – to address common preventable risk factors, mainly physical inactivity. Their concern for the health of the people was based on the fact that three-quarters of all deaths occur in one of four groups of non-communicable diseases that are linked to physical inactivity.

Watson’s departmental studies point out that the vast majority of Ontario’s sport recreation facility inventory is more than 25 years old, which is an age category when buildings become significantly more expensive to operate and maintain. Also, more than 80% of Ontario’s single pad arenas are over 25 years old, with 13% over 50 years old.

Moreover, 20% of the provincial publicly owned community centre inventory is more than 50 years old, while over 60% of all community centres in Ontario are over 25 years of age. The shocking news – and I’m certain Baumann will look into this – 80% of outdoor pools in Ontario are over 25 years old, which means most of them are in need of capital repairs.

As experts are telling us, for most recreation facilities, mid-life is the 25th year.

The minister didn’t mention the fact that Toronto has but two Olympic-size swimming pools, something that Baumann, a swimming hero with two Olympic gold medals at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles, may not be happy about. He may also frown on the unfortunate fact Ontario doesn’t have a speedskating oval and the one they’re planning in Peterborough is in dire need of financial help.

And Jack Dominico, the owner of the multiple champion Toronto Maple Leafs Baseball Club, is bemoaning the fact no one is building any baseball pitches in Toronto.

Summing up, the get-together of the provincial sports ministers last Thursday was a commendable effort, but as far as real improvement of sport facilties in Ontario and in Toronto in particular goes, I can recall what a blind man once told me on the corner of Yonge and King streets: “I would like to see.”

Over to you, Mr. Chong.

15 BILLION? What, are we having the Olympics in Montreal again?

I was going to ask is that enough!

In fact 15Bn could buy a poor Nations athletics team … let alone a few judges

Not if any of that pack of magpies is still drawing breath!
I doubt we’d have a more screwed up summer sports program if the Sports Minister was Tommy Chong instead of Michael.
( Cheech could run the Vancouver Olympic preparations)