The Ontario government is pumping another $2-million into sport services over the next two years so top athletes in the province can pump themselves up at the University of Toronto.

Ontario Health Promotion minister Margarett Best made the grant Thursday at the the school’s field house, where carded athletes and their coaches will get access to sport medicine services, education services and sport science testing.

“It’s good to get back into Canada’s sport scene in this role. This is the place where Alex Baumann was tested in the late 1970s when he was on the rise to become a swim star,” said Bruce Kidd, dean of the U of T’s physical education faculty.

But in two decades since the mid 1980s, sport slid further and further down the have the agenda of successive provincial administrations, Best said. 

Decaying sport infrastructure in the province led to a dwindling representation by Ontarians on national and Olympic teams. The current Ontario government is trying to address the deficit in facilities and programs, she said, allocating $23-million for sport in the current year’s budget.

Some of the $2-million grant announced at the U of T will go to building weightlifting platforms, volleyball facilities and creating a health database, Kidd said.

Best, Chris Rudge, chief executive officer of the Canadian Olympic Committee and 1936 flagbearer James Worrall later welcomed a procession of U of T Olympians through the years to the new Varsity Dome. The 5,000-seat stadium, internationally certified running track and artificial turf field are part of a renewal of sport facilities across the school’s three Toronto area campuses.

“We’ve raised about half the $92-million and still need $50-million to complete the Varsity revitalization,” Kidd said. “With or without a major Games coming to the Southern Ontario, we’re determined to build the labs and the sport facilities we need.”

The school is pursuing provincial, federal and corporate funds to establish the Goldring Centre for High Performance. Groundbreaking is planned for fall 2009.

A Southern Ontario bid for the 2015 Pan American Games — nominally a Toronto bid but with events planned from Barrie to St. Catharines — could win out over bids from Caracas, Venezuela; Lima Peru; and Bogota, Colombia. But it would require bringing in the federal government as a partner.

The Canadian Olympic Committee has signalled its support for the 2015 initiative, and Best said yesterday she found many municipalities to “ready and willing… and the province is looking into the viability of it and seeing how the federal government could be engaged.”

But a Pan American Games tab could run in the area of $2-billion globally, and the feds will be presented with less expensive options of World University Games bids for Montreal and Edmonton.

Courtesy of the Globe and Mail.