The Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games will open tomorrow, and nearly all the athletes are on the spot in Vancouver and Whistler. About 2,600 athletes of 82 different nationalities will compete. Never before have so many National Olympic Committees (NOCs) participated in the Olympic Winter Games. And there is another first: some of the Vancouver hopefuls have been recipients of individual scholarships from Olympic Solidarity to help cover their travel, training and coaching costs during the preparation and qualification process – a programme that has previously proved to be very successful for the Summer Games.
It’s the talent that matters
It is about ensuring that athletes with talent, regardless of their financial status, have a chance of succeeding in their Olympic dream. However, the aim is to improve the competitiveness of the Olympic Winter Games, rather than artificially getting as many countries as possible involved. As such, the new programme targets athletes who have a proven winter sports record, and who have taken part in international competitions.First Olympic Winter Games for Ghanaian skier
One of them is Ghana's first high-level skier, who has an interesting story to tell. Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong learnt the sport on an artificial slope in the UK. Whilst born in Glasgow, he grew up in Ghana's snowless capital, Accra. He returned to the UK for his studies, and it was only then that he took up the sport after getting a job as a receptionist at a skiing centre in Milton Keynes, where he had free access to the artificial slope. He started to love the sport and took up the challenge. From there it was a natural progression to the slopes of a real mountain.
Through a mix of determination and good luck, Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong is now so good he'll be the one-man Ghanaian ski team at the Olympic competitions in Vancouver. It has been a long journey until his dream finally comes true: he had missed out on qualifying for the 2006 Turin Olympic Games.
Since its launch in November 2008, 325 athletes from 60 NOCs have benefited from the scholarship programme for Vancouver. “Thanks to this programme, I was able to complete my rehabilitation after a difficult season”, said Darya Domracheva, a Belarusian biathlete and World Junior Champion in 2005 with high Olympic aspirations. She added: “It helps young athletes to prepare without financial problems making things difficult.” Another athlete who currently benefits from a scholarship and will compete in the Games is Japanese moguls skier Miki Ito, who says: “The scholarship changed everything. I always wanted to get more training, to be more on the skis, but I thought it wasn’t possible from a financial perspective. After having obtained the Olympic Solidarity scholarship, things became much easier. The scholarship even helps in being able to see the right doctor when I need care. It’s been a lifesaver for me.”About Olympic Solidarity
Olympic Solidarity is responsible for administering and managing the National Olympic Committees (NOCs)’ share of the revenue from the sale of broadcasting rights to the Olympic Games. Working in particular with the most needy NOCs and their Continental Associations, Olympic Solidarity uses this money to develop a range of assistance programmes. There are also “Team Support Grants” for ice hockey and curling teams likely to qualify for the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games.
The total budget for the 2009-2012 Olympic Solidarity quadrennial amounts to USD 311,000,000. Within this budget, the amount of USD 61,000,000 is earmarked to provide support to athletes.