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VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada will protect funding for Olympic athletes despite expectations of a "tough" federal budget to be introduced immediately after the Vancouver Games, the country's sports minister said on Tuesday.
The government contributes about C$47 million annually to the "Own the Podium" program to improve athletes' performance in both the Summer and Winter Games, but it is also grappling with how to close a nearly C$56 billion budget deficit.
"This is going to be a tough budget year... but as far as Own the Podium it has been so successful that we have committed some time ago to maintaining our funding," said Gary Lunn, minister of state for sports.
The new federal budget will be unveiled on March 4, less than a week after the Vancouver Games end.
The federal government is paying most of the C$900 million security budget for the Vancouver Games and half of the C$580 spent on venue construction.
Editing by Ed Osmond; To comment on this story: firstname.lastname@example.org