Rossland's Olympian Asks Home Town For Support

Kallee Lins
By Kallee Lins
July 30th, 2009

George Grey, a cross-country skiing star on both the national and international circuit, made an appearance before Council Monday night. In light of his qualification for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, he presented a delegation requesting a sponsorship from the City of Rossland to help him on his way to Whistler.

Grey, who grew up in Rossland after arriving in the area from England at the age of three, is currently skiing for the Canadian cross-country national team. He has already qualified for the Olympic team along with five other Canadians. The team will continue to be filled to a maximum of 14, “So I have the weight off my shoulders about going. I can prepare properly for the Olympics coming up, without having to put energy into qualifying next year,” said Grey.

Now that qualifying is out of the way, Grey can turn his attention to another crucial step in his quest for the Olympics- finding financial support. During his presentation, he made a case not only for his own funding, but also highlighted Canada’s responsibility to support the gamut of talented Canadian amateur athletes.

“I may be out of place here, but I wanted to sort of bring awareness to amateur athletes, for myself and for ones coming up. I see great potential at our club. I see young skiers at the National level winning medals, whereas I wasn’t winning medals until sort of later on in the game,“ Grey noted. He has been ranked between number one and number three in Canada for the last five years.

“Since amateur athletes do not make a lot of money like baseball or basketball players, it is up to the individual to go and seek sponsorships from their local businesses, even support from their ski clubs, family and friends.”

He recounted a major difference between Canadian and International athletes.

“When I’m on the international circuit, I see all the top racers and I’ve had the pleasure to race with the best, travelling behind them and finishing ahead of them. With the international athletes, the difference I see is that one of their biggest supporters financially is their home city. And, that gets branded on their clothing… I think that’s one major part that Canadian athletes miss out on, the financial backing that international athletes from Europe and Scandinavia can obtain.”

Just how much does it cost to make it to the Olympics? Grey is after a total of $30 000 by the fall of 2009 to make it to the Olympic training camp. He plans to do this through his ski club, as well as corporate sponsorships from local businesses. “I believe the City of Rossland would be a great partnership,” he pitched.

As a sponsorship from the City, Grey is asking for between $5 000 and $10 000. For $5 000, Grey would be able to brand the name of a sponsor into all of his ski clothing, both racing gear and warm-up suits.

Councilor Spearn inquired into the funding, if any, that George has received from the Canadian and British Columbian governments. Although nothing has come from the province as yet, Grey receives ‘carding’, a grant of $18 000 per year, from the Canadian government. However, this covers little more than rent and some of his food. Considering how much an Olympian in training needs to consume, money gets eaten up, literally, quite quickly. George commented on his need to eat large quantities of only the best food in order to help his body achieve its maximum speed of recovery.

Councilor Spearn then put Grey in the hot seat and asked how he would rate Canada’s overall commitment to its athletes, given that some countries are extremely supportive of their Olympians. “I hate to say it,” George began, “But I would put Canada in the bottom quarter of support, even compared to [former] Eastern Bloc countries.”

Before leaving the chair, Grey received congratulations from Mayor Granstrom and the councillors on all his recent achievements. Grey stated in his presentation, “I want to make Rossland proud, British Columbia proud, and Canada proud.” The consensus from Council and all in attendance was that he had achieved just that. “I’m a downhill skier because cross-country’s too much work,” said Councillor Charleton in citing his source of admiration for the young athlete.

Procedurally, Council was in no place to consider funding during the meeting, but the mayor asked that George submit a financial outline, and his funding will be considered in the coming weeks.

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