US superstar Lindsey Vonn’s coach Chris Knight has blasted the Government’s $1.5 million handout for the Winter Games in New Zealand.
The 10-day event held in Queenstown, Wanaka and Naseby wrapped up on Sunday, and Games chief executive Arthur Klap hailed the fourth biennial games as the best yet.
But Knight has written to Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce to ask what exactly the taxpayer contribution is used for.
The letter says: “The Government support for this event is just ridiculous and uninformed and the money could be so much better spent on athletes, coaches, teams or businesses that actually create things, not just piggyback existing events.
“Fund athletes better, fund training costs, and bring big-name athletes down here and the existing events will become bigger than they are very quickly.”
Knight – also speed coach for the US women’s ski team – argues that Cardrona skifield already hosts freestyle World Cups and Queenstown’s Coronet Peak hosts Continental Cup ski races, regardless of the Games.
Knight questions the Games’ economic benefit, given most athletes and support staff come to this area anyway – a claim dismissed by Games boss Arthur Klap.
Klap says all 14 World Cups held at Cardrona since 2007 had been initiated, managed and fully funded by Winter Games NZ.
The games also fully funded and managed the Continental Cup races at Coronet, freeing up money for Snow Sports NZ.
He will invite Mr Knight to present his views to the Games management team and board.
Joyce, whose Major Events Fund poured $1.5 million into this year’s Winter Games and has committed $1.25m for the next Games in 2017, says the Government used an independent panel to assess the benefits and opportunities of each event.
“I’m confident that the NZ Winter Games is a good investment for New Zealand.”
Joyce says the last Games in 2013 attracted 1438 international visitors, for a net national economic benefit of more than $7.8m.
He also says the 2013 event attracted significant international media coverage. For example, more than 4000 photos from Getty Images were downloaded by 151 publications in 27 countries and the live web broadcast attracted 27,722 visits from 50 countries.
New Zealand men’s ski team coach Nils Coberger is another who does not believe the Games are of any benefit to alpine ski-racing.
“I’m sure the Games are great for NZ but for our national ski team, I can’t really put my finger on how it benefits us.”