U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Foundation — the U.S Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s fundraising arm — raised over $1.4 million for the COVID Athlete Assistance Fund.
The fund was established to “assist athletes who have incurred financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the postponement of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.” A total of 1,220 athletes received a one-time stipend of $1,163.
Fundraising began in late July with a lead donation from hedge fund manager Bill Ackman and his Pershing Square Foundation; nearly 6,000 individual donors contributed overall.
The entirety of the funds went to athletes who are “training and in contention” to represent the U.S. in Tokyo and at the Beijing 2022 Games.
“The COVID-19 pandemic, and the postponement of the Tokyo Games and other events, acutely impacted Team USA athletes at a critical time in their preparations,” USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland said in an announcement. “We heard directly from so many athletes and, with our incredible donors, recognized the opportunity to step in to help alleviate the financial burdens many Olympic and Paralympic athletes are facing.”
Athletes who have represented the U.S. at an elite competition in an event or discipline included in the Tokyo or Beijing Games program in 2019 or 2020 were eligible to receive funding.
Elite competitions, events and programs included in the requirements were: world championships or the highest level of competition in an athlete’s sports; a World Cup Circuit, Grand Prix or equivalent elite international competitions; or an elite national team member as verified by a national governing body or high-performance management organization.
The gap in direct funding for Team USA athletes this year is estimated to be around $25 million.
In the USOPC’s request for relief funds from Congress in March — which was unsuccessful — it estimated total losses from the cancellation of over 8,000 domestic events and the postponement of the 2020 Games could be between $600 and800 million.