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Survey: Olympic and Other Elite Athletes Struggling Financially

20 Mar, 2020

By: Michael Popke

The results of a survey of almost 500 elite athletes in 48 countries — many of them vying for spots on their nation’s Olympic teams — are dismaying: 58 percent admitted they do not consider themselves to be financially stable.

“Even greater majorities said they did not receive ‘the appropriate amount of financial compensation’ from the International Olympic Committee or the national federations that send them to the games and other major events,” according to the Associated Press, citing a survey spearheaded by Global Athlete — a start-up movement that seeks to inspire athletes and drive change across the world of sport; the survey represented athletes from 40 summer sports and 16 winter sports. 

Athletes also cited the desire to be represented by independent committees and groups.

“By calling for athlete committees and representation to be entirely independent of the likes of the International Olympic Committee, national Olympic committees, FINA, national federations and related bodies, athletes are delivering a powerful message: we don’t want you to tell us what to say and think — we want you to listen to what we’re saying and what we want you to do about it,” Craig Lord, Swimming World’s editor in chief wrote on the magazine’s website.

Here are key findings from the survey’s three focus areas of athlete welfare, athlete compensation and athlete representation.

Athlete Welfare:

  • Athletes rights are somewhat respected by the Paralympic Movement followed by the International Olympic Committee and the International Federations, but more needs to be done.
  • More work supporting athletes’ rights is required by sporting organizations.
  • Verbal abuse, unfair team selection and the fear of retribution are the top concerns of athletes.
  • More work needs to be done to offer athletes a safe place to report concerns.
  • More support is required for mental health, sport career transition and ongoing medical care, as well as retirement funds and financial planning.
  • Para-athletes want to see classification rules improved. 

Athlete Compensation:

  • Athletes do not receive the appropriate amount of compensation from the International Paralympic Committee, the International Olympic Committee and national federations followed by governments, national Olympic and Paralympic committees.
  • Athletes should have the right to build and sell their own brands at national competitions and at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
  • International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee and International Federations should pay athletes for attending their Games.

Athlete Representation:

  • Athletes have a low level of representation.
  • Athletes should have 50 percent of voting rights within sporting organizations on rules that are being developed that affect them.
  • There is a need for collective independent athlete representation.
  • Athlete committees should be independent of sport federations.

Read the full report here.

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