On Tuesday, March 25th the IOC finally announced that the Olympic Games scheduled to be hosted by Tokyo in the summer of 2020 would be postponed until summer 2021, in the wake of the growing COVID-19 pandemic. Olympians all over the world were relieved to hear the postponement announcement because they were concerned for their safety in preparing for, traveling to, and competing at the Games.
However, Olympians (especially those that compete for Team USA) are waking up to a new reality; a reality in which the dream of competing for Team USA and potentially standing on the podium is being delayed for another year. Many fans have become familiar with the Olympic superstars over the past several Olympiads; stars like Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Simon Biles, and Allyson Felix. Beyond these superstars of the Olympics who seem to be doing well financially, there are many more struggling to afford the pursuit of this dream. An article published at the end of February 2020 revealed that of the over 500 athletes who were surveyed, 58% stated they did not consider themselves financially stable. The article underscores the hard reality of pursuing the Olympic dream, and that is “hardly anyone gets rich, while the majority are poor and largely beholden to the bureaucracies that fund…niche sports.”
There are numerous athletes that cannot devote significant segments of their day to training because they need to find other jobs to keep them financially stable. Unlike athletes that compete for the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, or MLS (in the U.S.), many Olympic athletes have no to minimal sponsorship agreements in which they rely on, along with any funds they can receive from their governing body. And even if the athletes were to gain sponsorship support, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has a series of loops the athletes will need to navigate in order for the athlete to even mention them in social media posts during the Games.
Now consider that numerous domestic and international competitions have been postponed due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Athletes rely on these competitions to potentially earn prize money based on their performance. With the cancelation of events, athletes are faced with the harsh reality that they will need to find other means by which to support themselves. There is no doubt that athletes have dealt with financial hardships, delayed starting their families, and postponed starting on their college or graduate degrees for the sake of pursuing this Olympic dream.
The question that many athletes are waking up to in light of the news of the postponement of the Olympic Games is: was all this sacrifice worth it? And can they continue to sacrifice for another year to pursue this dream?