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Olympic delay financially burdens the sports world

By Breanna Lu and Larry Ye Apr. 28, 2021

Jessica Lin Art


Since the COVID-19 pandemic struck, uncertainty has continually surrounded the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) decision to postpone the 2020 Summer Olympics has not only impacted the actual date—which was changed to July 2021—but has also financially harmed athletes, especially those playing niche sports.


“Although many athletes have been affected by the postponement of the Olympics, I fully support the decision, because the safety of the people competing should come before anything else. I have also been trying to get my Olympic Trial cuts in swimming, so the delay has given me more time to train and obtain my cuts,” Junior Courtney Seljeseth said.


[Athletes] whose only prize money comes from the Olympics struggled financially and occupationally to continue their training during COVID-19

Participation in the Olympics often represents a significant opportunity for athletes to earn paychecks. Hence, athletes whose only prize money comes from the Olympics struggled financially and occupationally to continue their training during COVID-19. With the postponement, there have also been fewer sponsorship opportunities as the economic downturn induced by the pandemic forced more and more corporations to cut spending. In the past, television ratings from the Olympics would incentivize companies to endorse athletes. However, with fewer competitions, businesses are finding it hard to justify sponsoring athletes. According to CNBC, some athletes have taken years off of college to train for their events and are now facing tough decisions about whether they should go back to school or continue their training. Others have tried to find jobs to support themselves but discovered it challenging to work and train concurrently.


Even before the pandemic, athletes from niche sports have struggled to support themselves, relying on prize money, sponsorships and GoFundMe campaigns to cover living expenses, training costs and travel fees. In a survey by Global Athlete, an advocacy group for athletes, of almost 500 elite athletes from 48 different countries conducted before the advent of COVID-19, 58 percent of respondents characterized themselves as financially unstable.


Top U.S. athletes are eligible for stipends from the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), their governing body, but the money is not nearly enough to cover the athletes’ needs.

Monica Aksamit, a saber fencer representing the U.S., raises funds through a variety of different venues to continue competing in her sport, including modeling, refereeing tournaments and hosting GoFundMe campaigns. Aksamit, who earned a bronze medal for the U.S. in the 2016 Olympics and is training for the 2020 Olympics, told CNBC that the postponement has been a huge struggle for her, considering all the obligations she balances.


Top U.S. athletes are eligible for stipends from the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), their governing body, but the money is not nearly enough to cover the athletes’ needs. As stated by USA Today, Gwen Berry, an elite American track and field athlete who specializes in the hammer throw, said that she receives a stipend from USA Track & Field but feels that it is not enough to make a living. Two-time Olympic gold medalist rower Meghan Musnicki told USA Today she receives less than $2,000 per month, and explained that lower-level athletes receive even lower amounts.


Phil Andrews, CEO of USA Weightlifting told CNBC that his organization’s stipends ranged from $750 to $4,000 per month, while the maximum track and field stipends were $12,000 per year or $1,000 monthly. By comparison, a full-time minimum-federal-wage worker would earn $15,080 annually or $1,257 per month, as calculated by UC Davis’s Center for Poverty & Inequality Research. In addition, the criteria for the stipend system this year is still unknown, as it usually relies on rankings in international events, which were canceled because of the pandemic.


“While it would have been great to have the 2020 Tokyo Olympics when it was originally planned, it was a necessary decision by the IOC to have it postponed rather than risking people’s lives...”

“It has been a difficult time for many people, and I can really sympathize with the athletes who have had amazing opportunities snatched away from them. While it would have been great to have the 2020 Tokyo Olympics when it was originally planned, it was a necessary decision by the IOC to have it postponed rather than risking people’s lives. The pandemic was just too dangerous for athletes to compete safely,” Senior Leena Gulvady said.


Beyond the competitors, the postponement will cost Japan $2 to $6 billion due to continuous amounts of spending to maintain Olympic infrastructure, writes USA Today. Following the decision to postpone the 2020 Summer Olympics, Olympic athletes and organizations have struggled financially. If such a large-scale delay were to happen again, there may be a further push for increased government assistance for Olympians.

 

About the Contributors

Breanna Lu

Staff Writer


Breanna Lu is a freshman and a new staff writer. She enjoys binge watching sci-fi movies and her favorite book genre is murder mysteries/crime fiction. In her free time, you will most likely find her asleep or chatting with her friends.







Larry Ye

Staff Writer


Lawrence Ye is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer for the Leland Charger Account. He likes to swim and travel and loves his pet dog named Meatball.

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