Washington – Creative financing secured from a variety of individual, corporate and community sources underpins the U.S. Olympic effort, a feature that sets American amateur sports apart from amateur athletic programs in much of the world.
In Sioux City, Iowa, fourth- and fifth-graders sold baked goods and collected the deposits on recyclable bottles and cans. Georgia second-graders collected nearly $400 in pennies. The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team held a series of formal balls, inviting their fans to dance, and obtain autographs, at such posh locations as New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom. The snowboarders raised more than $1 million.
These are only a few examples of how Americans raise funds for the training, preparation and care of their Olympic athletes, including those who competed in Torino, Italy, in the 2006 Winter Games.
As with the arts, the funding of the U.S. Olympic effort is highly decentralized and largely shared by private businesses and millions of individual Americans. This system has proven popular; a 2004 Harris Poll revealed that three in four Americans prefer that Olympic training be paid for exclusively or predominantly through private funding. One possible benefit is that everyone — down to penny-collecting 8-year-olds — can point with pride to their contribution to what is truly “their” Olympic team.
NO CLAIM ON PUBLIC FUNDS
America‘s Olympic effort is coordinated by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Unlike most national Olympic committees, USOC receives no continuous federal government subsidy, relying instead on corporate and individual contributions and on the proceeds of its direct marketing program.
Another key source of financial support is the U.S. Olympic Foundation. Originally funded with surplus funds from the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Games, the foundation distributes half its assets to USOC member organizations while investing the rest to ensure its ability to assist future athletes.
The USOC provides funds to these member organizations, known as national governing bodies (NGBs), to support various training and athlete development programs. Each NGB governs a specific sport. Most of these NGBs also raise funds to train athletes, educate coaches, enhance training facilities, cover travel expenses and defray their own operating costs.
In the United States, where many athletes begin training at an early age, training costs for athletes under 18 generally are paid by athletes’ parents. Those expenses can run into tens of thousands annually for the most talented youngsters. When an athlete is selected to a national team, some funding usually becomes available from the USOC and the NGB. In addition, many NGBs sponsor short training camps for especially talented young athletes.
For many athletes whose peak performance years fall in their late teens or 20s, the United States’ colleges and universities become their primary source of training. Often competing on scholarship, these athletes’ efforts are rewarded not only with top-notch coaching but with financial aid to complete their education. The coaches and facilities available at U.S. universities draw athletes from all over world who are looking to perfect their skills and then compete for their home countries in international competition.
Many U.S. corporations financially support U.S. Olympic athletes, receiving in return favorable publicity, the right to use Olympic symbols in their advertising and public good will. Among the current corporate partners to the U.S. Olympic movement are Anheuser-Busch Inc., AT&T, Bank of America, General Motors, The Home Depot and Johnson & Johnson.
While support often takes the form of cash or other contributions to the USOC, some businesses find ways to assist individual athletes. Retailer The Home Depot, for instance, has assisted individually hundreds of athletes by offering them jobs where they work 20-hour weeks for a 40-hour salary, with flexible schedules that afford time off for training and competitions. Thirty-three of the 2006 U.S. team’s 211 members are Home Depot employees.
With so many Americans eager to show their support, direct marketing has emerged as a significant source of USOC revenue. Clothing featuring Olympic-related logos is especially popular, with such items as jackets, T-shirts and track pants available alongside such collectibles as portfolios and desk sets bearing the symbols of the United States Olympic Team.
But it is the many individual efforts that symbolize the close ties between the athletes and their fans. When the U.S. water polo team wanted to hire a world-class coach, the team raised half his salary from private sources while USOC provided the rest.
The state of Michigan sells special automobile license plates, with proceeds funding an Olympic training center at Northern Michigan University.
Local communities long have come through for their hometown heroes. When a Champaign, Illinois, speed skater needed to train in Europe to have a chance at making the U.S. team, the Champaign Policeman’s Benevolent Association raised the money she needed. That skater, Bonnie Blair, would compete for the United States in four Olympics, winning five gold medals.
Stories like Blair’s underscore the close ties between American Olympians and their supporters at home.
Lembro que estamos a falar aqui da Nação mais medalhada de sempre em Jogos Olímpicos.