The unique B2ten initiative backed by well-heeled Canadian business executives to help put athletes on the podium (featured in the Star today) is something that the people involved hope to continue past the 2010 Vancouver Games.
“We’re in it to make sure that support continues for amateur sport when the funding gets turned off Feb. 28, 2010,” said Montreal businessman J.D. Miller, one of the founders. “I mean it’s not going to get totally turned off, but it’s going to be at a much lower level than it is now.”
Miller’s right. The funding’s going to take a huge hit from the $120 million invested in five years in winter sport leading to 2010. One of the few hopes of it being sustained at a reasonable level is if corporate Canada sees it as the worthwhile venture -- as the investors in B2ten have -- steps to the plate.
“Imagine if our 100 largest companies in the country gave $100,000 each to amateur sport,” said Miller. “Our system would be flying.”
It’s clear from talking to some of the contributors, principally Claire Angus Caplan of Toronto and Barry Heck of Calgary, that they’ve embraced the ideal beyond the financial investment.
“In professional sport, so much of sport is associated with fame and glory and money,” said Angus Caplan, a mother of four. “It’s amazing for us to be able to introduce to our children the whole idea of amateur sport and the sacrifices that they make.”
There’s also a lot of mentoring of the athletes by the business executives that is expected to last beyond their competitive days.
“I have no doubt when these athletes retire, that some of these B2ten sponsors will step up and really help these people,” said Heck, president of EL Merchant Capital in Calgary. “It is a two-way mentoring. They can mentor us and our kids and our families as to their experiences. We hope to be able to integrate these people into the workforce once their careers are over.”
As today’s article mentions, B2ten helps athletes with goods and services rather than cash. One example not mentioned in the story is that one of the executives lends their Whistler condo to Olympic skeleton silver medalist Jeff Pain so he can stay with his family when he trains or competes there.
Pain, a father of two, said those kinds of things can make a big difference.
“One of the big things as an amateur athlete in Canada is sometimes I certainly feel like I’m out there on my own, flogging through the wilderness and I get remembered every four years,” said Pain. “Not an uncommon story.
“So having B2ten people or my other sponsors, Totalline Transport, who called me up after the Games and offered their support to me, it says ‘We’ve seen you, we’ve met you, we believe in you and we’re gonna help.’ That’s just a huge help.”
That’s the thing. Even with the increase in support and funding on several fronts for winter sports, many athletes still struggle to make ends meet. That’s why Canadian Olympic star Clara Hughes went public recently with a plea for more corporate support. The issue is also addressed here by Vancouver Province columnist Ed Willes.
So the B2ten investors deserve props for getting involved. Here’s a partial list of the western investors:
· Rodney McCann – President, Aristos Energy (part of the McCann Group); · Larry Moeller – Edco Financial; · Tony Dilawri –Dilawri Group of Companies (Calgary BMW, Bentley, Aston Martin, Calgary Honda and other auto dealerships); · Steve Rice – CEO, Summit Corporation (Eden Textiles and DSL Food Service); · Robert Kulhawy – CEO, Commerx Corporation; · Wade Sparks – President, Riley’s · Patricia and George La Borde;