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Paying for Passion: Why Are Canadian Olympians Going Broke?

[ the cost of rio ]

Throughout the first week of the Olympic Games, you’ve likely heard that our Canadian athletes are in debt - huge debt. And as a nation, we should be concerned.

According to Global News, our federally-funded athletes are in debt to the tune of $27.5 million, and the government’s support isn’t growing. Athletes themselves (and their parents) are picking up the tab to fund their careers, and we may be missing out on some of our finest athletes because of it.

As we cheer on our Olympians from home, we have to question: is this debt load fair? Should the Canadian government be doing more? What about us, as Canadians – should we be supporting our athletes in the spirit of philanthropy?

The short answer? Absolutely. The longer answer? Read on to find out why (And be sure to follow relate on Twitter and Instagram for more).

[ high performance, high impact ]

To fully understand the issue, we need to consider two factors:

1. High-performance athletes perform for Canada - training and competing is their career

2. Canadians benefit, as a whole, from the success of our athletes on the international stage. High-performance success enriches our social fabric through increased athleticism across the spectrum of age, gender and socio-economic status, and provides a unity in patriotism (and of course, entertainment!).

If we want our anthem played more often, we’re going to have to put our money on the table. Other nations are ahead of Canada in making the shift from high-performance sport (and associated athletic development) as a government game, to a philanthropic one. In order to do that, we are going to have to change a long-standing paradigm. Canadians are going to have to be compelled to support their National Sport Organizations (NSOs) much in the same way they do the arts. To have a culturally rich city, province or country, we accept that there must be a contingent of support to our symphonies, ballets, and grass-roots theatres. We must begin to view our athletes and NSOs in a similar fashion to ensure continued success in sport.

[ golden investment ]

It is common knowledge now that a physically active and engaged community excels both on the field and off. We work better, live better, and are healthier when we participate in sport. What we have to realize, is that in order for local sports organizations to thrive, their high-performance counterparts must succeed as well. Following a successful Olympic games, NSOs will see an increase in membership at the local level - more Canadians (of all ages) will be compelled to participate in sport. Local clubs and high-performance programs have a complimentary and symbiotic relationship.

So what does this mean for Canadians? We need to realize that government dollars aren't going to take our athletes to the top. Much like the excellence we contribute to building in our hospitals, universities and art institutions, we are going to have to dig deep to support the sports we love. If we do just that, together in Tokyo 2020 and beyond, all Canadians can cheer on with more than pride - with a feeling of being part of the team.


What do you think of sport as a worthy charitable cause? We'd love to hear your thoughts! Get back to us on Twitter or LinkedIn #sportphilanthropy

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