Does U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Sports Funding Need Reform? | Sports Destination Management

Does U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Sports Funding Need Reform?

Mar 28, 2024 | By: Michael Popke

While Paris officials prep to host the Summer Olympics later this year, closer to home a committee appointed by the United States Congress is calling for “a better long-term vision for how we organize Olympic- and Paralympic-movement sports in America.”


On March 1, the Commission on the State of U.S. Olympics & Paralympics published “Passing the Torch: Modernizing Olympic, Paralympic, & Grassroots Sports in America” — a 277-page report that explores the tension between grassroots and elite sports.


“Untethering the two, the report argued, could benefit its two main targets for reform — the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the [U.S. Center for] SafeSport,” according to the Associated Press. “A big focus of the report was on the Denver-based center, which was established in 2017 to oversee sex-abuse cases in Olympic sports. It receives around $20 million annually from the USOPC and its sports affiliates, though the report called for a rethinking of the revenue stream, including having the government fund it. The center has long been dealing with an overload of cases and has been criticized for taking too long to resolve them.”


“Regardless of whether the additional funding continues to come through the USOPC as required by federal law, or directly from Congressional appropriations, it needs to increase substantially to allow the Center to better fulfill our mission of keeping America’s athletes safe,” Ju’Riese Colon, chief executive office of the U.S. Center for SafeSport told the AP.


The Washington Post has more:


The commission found the funding process for SafeSport … to be “deeply concerning” because it relies heavily on money the national governing bodies of each sport provide to [the USOPC]. The report said the USOPC’s “high use” charge to those sports “incentivizes governing bodies to deter participants from coming forward” with allegations.


“If athletes’ safety is as much a public value as fair competition, SafeSport needs to have public support,” the report said.


Reports recommend more fundingThe committee recommends Congress make SafeSport fully independent of the USOPC by funding it directly. It also urges Congress to reform SafeSport by eliminating a system in which sports bodies are funding it, expanding its disciplinary database to “include more offenders” and preventing it from closing cases because victims decline to participate in investigations.


The report also criticized the USOPC for its lack of transparency and argued the committee should be subject to increased oversight, a streamlining of its mission and a review of executive compensation.

In short, the AP summarized, the report “called for complete independence of the Team USA Athletes Commission, which now runs under the umbrella of the USOPC; an overhaul of governance processes; better access for Paralympic athletes; and a rethinking of the U.S. bid process for Olympic Games.”

In a statement delivered to The Washington Post, the USOPC appeared willing to consider making some changes: “Since the inception of the Commission, the USOPC has undergone a profound transformation. The past five years have been marked by milestones in athlete excellence, sport advancement, and community growth. We take immense pride in the pivotal reforms implemented to bolster athlete representation and prioritize athlete safety. …Our endeavor to enhance transparency and accountability within our governance structures has been unwavering, mirroring our commitment to raising awareness and support for the Paralympic movement. Although we are proud of our progress, we acknowledge that the path to excellence is an ongoing journey. Guided by this understanding, we stand steadfast in our commitment to relentlessly drive forward in our efforts. We look forward to reviewing the Commission’s findings and recommendations and being a constructive participant in making our organization and the Olympic and Paralympic movements stronger.”

“As many of our global competitors continue to use sports as a potent foreign-policy tool, it is essential that the United States take the steps needed now to ensure that our system remains the envy of the world, that our athletes can compete and win internationally, and that we can maintain a reputation for upholding the highest principles of fair play and sportsmanship,” the Commission on the State of U.S. Olympics & Paralympics concluded in its report. Likewise, we must not miss this opportunity to embrace sports as a means to deliver myriad benefits to American society, to our health, to our economy and to the success of our democracy. A fixation on short-term solutions will not suffice.”

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