While International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge and Canada's Winter Olympians stayed in Spartan university residences at Salt Lake City, Canadian cabinet ministers Paul DeVillers and Sheila Copps and Sport Canada officials stayed in luxury hotels, with taxpayers footing bills of up to $3,476 a night for a single suite.
Canadians took a bath on the Jacuzzi-equipped suite reserved for Mr. DeVillers, Secretary of State for Amateur Sport, paying more than $24,000 for it to sit empty for seven nights during the Games.
Documents obtained under the Access to Information Act by Ottawa researcher Ken Rubin show that the government spent almost $400,000 on accommodations during the Olympics for politicians and Canadian sport functionaries, some of whom jetted to the Games aboard a government jet.
The Canadian Heritage Ministry also spent about $57,000 for tickets to events including four seats for the opening ceremonies and four seats for the closing ceremonies at $1,512 apiece. Nearly $60,000 went for Sport Canada logo watches, Olympic pins, embroidered jackets and fashionable Roots gear. Although the watches were distributed to athletes, the politicians and bureaucrats donned the leather-trimmed Roots jackets, scarves, sweaters and the coveted poorboy caps so they would look like the Canadian athletes.
Heritage also spent about $14,000 on receptions, ostensibly to publicize Canadian sport in the international sphere and to boost Vancouver's bid for the 2010 Games, but most guests at the receptions were Canadians.
The government's spending of hundreds of thousands of dollars at the Games doesn't sit well with struggling athletes. The Canadian Snowboard Federation received a paltry $15,000 in federal funding during 2000-2001, leading up to the Salt Lake Games; when Ross Rebagliati won the first Olympic gold for that sport at Nagano in 1998, the federation wasn't even recognized by the federal funding agency.
The cash-strapped women's cross-country ski team boosted its training fund between the Nagano and Salt Lake Games by marketing a calendar depicting the athletes nude.
Last year, the national cross-country-ski team had a $350,000 budget less than the amount spent in three weeks on the government's hotel rooms and national cross-country coach Dave Wood said the team expected a post-Olympic funding cutback.
"It made me pretty sick," said cross-country Olympian Sara Renner, when she heard of the government's spending at Salt Lake. "Politicians wanted to look like athletes, but the obvious difference is that their wallets are a lot heavier."
Much of the federal money was spent at the Hotel Monaco, a luxury boutique hotel in the centre of Salt Lake City. It features complimentary massages and wine each night in the Deco-styled lobby. Sport Canada, a department of Heritage, took six double rooms there at $690 (U.S.) a night, three junior suites at $930 (U.S.) a night and the posh Majestic Suite at $2,200 (U.S.) a night. The mahogany-furnished Majestic Suite features a Jacuzzi in the master bedroom, a dining table for eight, 25-inch remote-control colour TV, Nintendo 64 games, a CD player, Starbucks coffee and an ironing board.