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Tuesday, October 3, 2000
Smart money may be best answer for Olympic woes

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By CHRIS COCHRANE -- Halifax Chronicle-Herald

THE DEBATE STARTED LONG before the Olympic Games ended: How does Canada improve on what many interpret as a disappointing medal count?

While the obvious answer is to invest more money in the Olympic program, there's a train of thought shared by some insiders that the answer doesn't rest only with twisting the arm of government until it drops a bundle of Olympic cash.

They are unconvinced that government will do an about-face and become an amateur sport cash cow, so they would like to see more prioritized spending of the available funds.

It's an idea with merit. Instead of trying to do an adequate job in all sports, perhaps it is time Canada looks at trying to do a bang-up job in the sports in which we appear to be strongest. That may mean dropping international participation in sports in which we are simply not competitive, thereby freeing up more money for the sports we're potentially strong in.

Accompanying that theory is the belief that regional training centres, each specializing in several sports, should receive more funding and greater autonomy to bulk up the sports for which they are responsible.

Fewer bureaucrats and more front-line sports experts sounds like a sensible alternative. Hopefully, that would result in a more concentrated effort in developing international-calibre athletes in the sports we have potential in.

Given that the amateur sports budget may not grow, improved priority spending, overseen by those at the grassroots, is the most sensible solution I've heard yet for our Olympic malaise.



For a long time now, amateur boxing officials have looked with disdain at the professional sport and all its many problems.

But after witnessing the Olympic debacle called boxing, I don't think the amateurs have any grounds to poke fun at anyone else.

Boxing was one of the Olympic sports that many looked forward to watching. But it had to rate as the most disappointing, thanks to judging and officiating so weak they opened the door to allegations of incompetence and bias.

Too often, fighters were allowed to consistently break the rules without being penalized. The scoring was at best inconsistent and sometimes seemed blatantly one-sided.

Considering that the boxers put years of dedication into making their Olympic teams, they deserved a much better standard of refereeing and scoring than they received.

And the next time amateurs start talking about the obvious evils of pro boxing, though it's a charge that certainly has merit, maybe they should remember they have their own demons to slay if they are to retain the credibility they so strongly demand.



One final bit of Canadian Olympic navel-gazing: It's become obvious Canada needs to develop more of an amateur sport mindset if we are ever to become a power in the types of sports that dominate the Olympic agenda.

In this country, most of the media attention, fan interest and money go into the high-profile sports such as hockey, basketball and football. But those sports make up a very small part of the overall Olympic picture.

The major Olympic sports - track and field, paddling, swimming, diving and indoor and beach volleyball - are so low-profile in this country that they hardly get a mention, except where there are pockets of interest.

So it's little surprise that we have problems developing dominant international athletes in these areas. The younger athletes, when they are starting out and picking a sport or sports hero to emulate, are most often steered toward sports that have only a small impact at the Olympic Games.

That has to change.



Congratulations to all the Nova Scotians who reached the Olympic Games. Hopefully, they realize that what they accomplished will forever remain a career highlight, whether or not they brought home a medal.

And for Lake Echo's Steve Giles, the ideal role model for any young athlete who shows the talent and dedication for international success, a special thanks for the memory.

Celebrating his bronze-medal win in the solo canoe 1,000-metre event, with our province's flag draped over his shoulders, gave Nova Scotians everywhere a moment to cherish.
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