I've never been into professional sport. Blame it on my dad I guess. As a British expat, he was passionate about more European sports like cycling, tennis, athletics, alping skiing - basically Olympic sport (which we used to call "amateur" sport - but we can't really call it that anymore, so I resort to using Olympic/Paralympic sport!) - so that's what I grew up paying attention to.
We would gripe about the lack of coverage for these sports in Canadian newspapers - how pages would be dedicated to the minutiae of NHL hockey players and their off-ice antics, while World Championship medals won in cycling or bobsleigh would get a few lines of text under the “In Other News” column. Things have improved somewhat in terms of coverage for Olympic (and Paralympic) sport with access to live streaming and the proliferation of voices reporting on blogs and such, but the coverage still isn’t what you might see in Europe for example.
And the $$ DEFINITELY hasn’t improved in Olympic/Paralympic sport. So many smaller National Sport Organizations are really struggling to keep things afloat with funding levels that haven’t increased since the early 2010s and rising travel costs across the board. I’m not sure what the answer to this is – well, I do have one idea that someone else once told me – I can’t take complete credit (!) – why not have Canadian NHL, NBA, PGA, tennis, etc., athletes (or their teams) contribute just 1-2% of their salaries back into the Canadian sport system? It’s the system that contributed to their success in the professional ranks – so why not give back? Have the $$ distributed to some of the smaller sports that have a harder time attracting sponsors and spectators to their events – help them grow and thrive and in the process, attract more Canadian kids to these sports – leading to a healthier population of active, happy people (and not just hockey.
It sounds like a relatively simple idea but I have no idea how to actually make it happen. Maybe someone out there with the know-how will read this and make it happen. I can dream 😊
In the meantime, I’ll continue to champion Olympic/Paralympic sport. I’ve been loving watching the live streams from the Pan Am Games happening in Santiago, Chile this week. I don’t work for Gymnastics Canada anymore, but it’s been awesome to see the athletes and coaches I worked with over the years enjoy some great success – in particular the men’s artistic team who have been in the shadows of the women’s team for so long. They’re going to bring their A-game to Paris and I can’t wait to cheer them on. I’ve also been loving watching sports like climbing as they make their Pan Am Games debut. They’re just one of the NSOs really struggling for funding, so it was an honour to help cover their results and to hopefully help them raise their profile a bit through a couple of press releases that I wrote (you can read them here and here).
I have to believe that eventually the demand for coverage of Olympic and Paralympic sport will happen even outside of the Olympic cycle and that Canadians will know the names of these athletes as well as they know the names of NHL players. Where there’s a will, there’s a way – right?