MasterAthletes can’t afford global games

By Christa Delaney
A premiere sporting event expected to bring 5,000 athletes to Ottawa has been scaled back because of a lack of entrants.

The World Winter MasterAthlete Games, slated for Jan. 23 – Feb. 1, has dropped 30 of 33 planned sporting events. The Canadian MasterAthlete Federation made the decision a month ago.

Marketing costs are partly to blame for the poor response, says Liz Roach, president of the federation which has organized the Games for the last three years.

“We advertised at as many world championships as we could, but it costs a lot of money to market overseas,” says Roach.

Between 200 and 300 athletes are registered to compete in the three remaining events — judo, weightlifting and synchronized swimming. Participants from 11 countries are expected to attend.

Close to $90,000 has been spent advertising the Games, plus $60,000 for costs like translation and travel. The main sponsor of the Games is Carter Horner, a Toronto-based company that manufactures A535 athletic rub.

Roach said the $200 registration fee was a factor that worked against the Games.

“We feel now, that (the $200) was far too expensive. And there should have been a deadline on registration,” said Roach. “We’ve still got people calling wanting to register.”

Roach said organizers never approached the City of Ottawa for money, because planning of the Games began three years ago, during a period of municipal downloading.

“The city has been supportive by giving us the use of facilities free of charge,” Roach added.

Dave Lahey, sports co-ordinator for the city of Ottawa, said it’s a shame most events have been cancelled.

“They’ve (the organizers) been banging their heads against the wall trying to make it happen and it just hasn’t clicked,” he said.

Before 30 events were cancelled, Ottawa was going to provide the Games with 2,000 hours of free venue time at municipal facilities.

“Now it’s down to 50 or 60 hours at the most,” said Lahey.

MasterAthletes are ordinary citizens who compete because they enjoy their sport. Women over 30 and men over 35 are eligible to participate.

Ottawa resident Brian Thom, 38, will be competing in the weightlifting segment. He said the registration fee, $150 when he signed up a year ago, is too high.

“They should have reduced the price and more people would have entered all the events,” said Thom. “It’s a one-time thing, that’s why I’m doing it.”

On Jan. 24 and 25 judo will be held at Lansdowne Park and weightlifting will be held at the Heron Road Multi-Service Centre.

Synchronized swimming will be held at Carleton University Jan. 26-28.