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Commonwealth Games Canada launches fundraising campaign in bid to meet shortfall

TORONTO — Acknowledging its cupboard is near bare, Commonwealth Games Canada is launching a fundraising drive.

The organization says it needs to raise $800,000 every quadrennial to keep sending a team to the Games, noting that Commonwealth Games alumni are responsible for 80 per cent of the Canadian medals won at the Summer Olympics. 

Commonwealth Games Canada CEO Brian MacPherson said the $1.8-million cost of sending a team to the Gold Coast Games in Australia in April was largely covered by government and sponsor contributions and CGC's "small reserve fund."

"But not without charging some of the athletes a pay-to-play fee," he added.

As it is, 83 of the 283 athletes had to contribute to the cost of going. In some cases, the bill was paid by their federations. But some had to dig into their own pocket to represent their country. 

Athletes ranked in the top five in the Commonwealth did not have to pay. Those ranked sixth through eighth or so-called 'next-generation athletes" had to contribute $3,000 each.

The organization currently receives $1 million from government and sponsors but needs to raise $200,000 per year "or we'll risk losing a team forever."

It is hoping that individual Canadians and businesses step up to help make up the shortfall. So Commonwealth Games Canada, in conjunction with "Giving Tuesday" on Nov. 27, is kicking off a series of fundraising campaigns.

MacPherson called the $1.8-million team budget "bare-bones" for a team that totalled 400-plus counting coaches and officials. More money would allow for more preparation in advance of competition and more support on the ground at the Games.

But just meeting the shortfall is Job 1.

If things don't change, a third of the 2022 athletes will have to pay to play. And the Canadian governing body would exhaust its reserve fund, meaning that every athlete and coach would have to pay to take part in the 2026 Games.

"If that happens, you can bet that there'll be less athletes and coaches on the team," MacPherson said.

And likely fewer medals.

Canada won 82 medals at the Gold Coast Games, earning 15 gold, 40 silver and 27 bronze. That was good for third in total medals behind Australia (196) and England (136).

The 2022 Games will be held in Birmingham, England. MacPherson hopes Canada will host in 2030, the 100th anniversary of Hamilton hosting the British Empire Games.

Canada also hosted the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1954 in Vancouver and the Commonwealth Games in 1978 in Edmonton and in 1994 in Victoria.

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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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