Training to compete in the Olympics is a long and arduous process for many athletes. And can be expensive. Many athletes depend on corporate sponsorships to help ease the financial burden, something that has become increasingly difficult during a global economic downturn.
Stephen Colbert is known as a satirist and a comedian, but he is also a U.S. Olympic sponsor. The TV host of the Colbert Report agreed to help the U.S. Speedskating Team when a U.S. bank backed out after declaring bankruptcy.
"He did, he stepped in where there was need," said Jerri Roush, the managing director of the United States Olympic Committee's Events Services. "It's times like that when you have such great pride in Americans, when you see somebody do something like that for a smaller sport, certainly a prominent sport, where they needed that funding. It's a great story, certainly creates a buzz on the streets."
Many governments provide funding for their Olympic teams, but the private U.S. Olympic Committee depends on other sources.
"The U.S. Olympic Committee is funded by sponsors, donors and private dollars," she added.
Private contributions are what keep luge slider Brian Martin and many other American athletes in competition. But Martin admits, the global economic downturn was noticeable leading up to the Olympics.
"It has been a real struggle to find new sponsorship and keep old sponsorship. We've seen a drop off of the amount of money that we have to spend when we are on tour," said Martin.
The USA House here in Vancouver is a sort of oasis for the U.S. athletes, their families, and the sponsors and donors that keep them in competition. Completely paid for through sponsorship, it is one place in downtown Vancouver where, regardless of the economy, businesses can promote their brand, and connection to Team USA.
Jerri Roush says the size of this USA House is smaller than the one they had in Beijing for the 2006 Summer Olympic Games. She says that's more of a reflection on the fact there are less athletes and events in the Winter Olympics than a sign of the recession.
As some sponsors have pulled out, others have stepped in to take their place, and Roush says she see the situation improving along with the economy.
"You know, we're seeing a bit of a change in tide as things get better, but we certainly felt it for a little bit, but as we're all doing, we're tightening the belts and working harder to find those other dollars," added Roush.
Other dollars needed to support Team USA as it prepares for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.