The mission of the Canadian Olympic Committee is, in its simplest expression, to do everything we can to put Canadian athletes atop the Olympic podium.
The COC itself is privately funded by 27 marketing partnerships, including some of the most prominent Canadian businesses—RBC, Hudson's Bay, Bell and Canadian Tire. Those partnerships are intact. We are, generally speaking, weathering the pandemic, but we are also an umbrella organization of 62 national sports organizations—big ones like Soccer Canada, Curling Canada and Swimming Canada, and smaller ones like Rowing Canada and Luge Canada—and these NSOs are generally not weathering the pandemic. They are funded in large part by government and from club fees. With participation levels at near nil, many NSOs are in peril and the Canadian sport system is in near crisis.
Also in crisis is our nation's relationship with sport. Once one of the more sporting nations in the world, the pandemic has accelerated a decline in sport and physical activity across Canada. With facilities closed since March all across the country, Canadians have sunk further into a sedentary lifestyle, which is all but certain to bring about a wave of physical and mental wellness challenges unless tackled head-on.
Fortunately, if we reintroduce Canadians to sport, the results can be dramatic. Sport has long been understood as a powerful tool for building healthy and inclusive communities. It can deliver on our national priorities of promoting health and wellness, fostering safe communities, improving education outcomes, stimulating economic activity and assisting with the social and cultural integration of new Canadians. Sport can and should underpin our national recovery.
Now, describing where we are is not simple. The impact of the pandemic on the sport system is varied, just like the sports themselves, but in almost every case, the needs are considerable, and there are some key themes.
The first theme is flexibility. Many NSOs need budgetary flexibility. Critical relief funding has been delivered—thank you very much—but with their activities still largely stopped, they need government flexibility to spend money later and for different purposes. We're working on that.
The second theme is training environments. Many NSOs need a safe daily training environment. With pools, clubs, gyms and other athletic facilities largely closed, most national athletes have been struggling to find safe ways to train. We've been working on that too.
Next is major events. Many NSOs need to stage events or they won't survive. These include Curling Canada, Soccer Canada and Freestyle Canada, just to name a few. Despite Tennis Canada's best efforts, their signature Rogers Cup events were cancelled in 2020, forcing them to incur a $31-million loss, causing deep cuts to their programs and a 40% reduction in staff. This in turn will decimate their efforts to develop tennis in the years to come.
The last theme is memberships. Many NSOs have lost their members. Many of them, such as Gymnastics Canada and Skate Canada, rely on membership fees across the country. With clubs closed, these revenues have dried up.
Here's the rub. Where we can, we're working hard with Sport Canada to address our high-performance needs, but these organizations are not just responsible for identifying elite Olympic talent; they have responsibility for growing their sport and an entire continuum, a pathway from, as we say, the playground to the podium. It is the beginning of the pathway that warrants attention. Even before the pandemic, NSOs on average devoted only 12% of their budgets to developing their sports—to the grassroots, to getting younger athletes engaged, to introducing them and exposing them to rules and coaching and broadening the base of participants. To recover from the pandemic, we need to reintroduce Canadians to sport through real investment in these NSOs.
My remarks before this committee today can't do justice to the nuanced needs of the sport sector, but I'd like to frame two needs in two areas of focus. One is to enhance emergency funding available to sport organizations and athletes under financial duress in order to manage through the challenges of the pandemic. The second is to make a $50-million increase in annual funding to the sport system to address long-term need and reintroduce Canadians to sport at the grassroots and community level.
We're not alone in facing this challenge. We have seen others, with New Zealand as a prime example, implement significant investments in supporting their sport systems and linking sport to overall wellness and economic recovery. Just this week the United Nations passed a motion encouraging member nations “to include sport and physical activity in their recovery plans post COVID-19”.
The sport industry contributes roughly $6.6 billion annually to Canada's GDP and supports roughly 118,000 jobs, but the real impact of sport extends exponentially beyond these numbers. It contributes to the physical, mental and social wellness of our communities. As we build healthy and inclusive communities, so too are we building the foundation for our economic recovery.
Thank you very much.