News

    Olympic Funding Often Reflects Country's Values

    More than 10,000 athletes from around the world will compete in the upcoming Beijing Olympics. All have the same dream, to win a gold medal.  But not all dreams are equal.  Athletic training costs money, so athletes from rich nations will most likely win more medals than those from poor countries. How a country funds its Olympic program is not only an indicator of likely success, it also reflects each nation's social and political values. Brian Padden has the story, with additional reporting from Barry Newhouse and Wajid Hosseinin in Islamabad; Cathy Majtenyi in Nairobi; Michael O’Sullivan in Los Angeles; Peter Fedynsky in Moscow, and Roger Hsu in Detroit. (Part 1 of 5)

    In many countries, the military has traditionally supported Olympic programs.  In Pakistan, where the armed forces play a prominent role in society, the national champion in rifle marksmanship, Sadiq Umeri, serves in Pakistan's army.

    "I feel very proud, and it's a great pleasure to be selected for the Olympics," said Umeri. "And getting an award or medal is not really my goal - that's mainly about luck - but I will try to do my best. And I'm not going to disappoint my country."

    Kenya's Olympic program is entirely government-funded.  The Kenyan Athletic Association says it has a $1.5 million Olympic budget and intends to send 80 athletes to the games.

    One of its best hopes for an Olympic medal is Robert Cheruiyot, a four-time winner of the Boston marathon. "When I am running, I can hear the national anthem of Kenya," said Cheruiyot. "When I train I can hear the national anthem of Kenya."

    But while Cheruiyot is proud to represent his country, he says he has not yet received any government funds. David Wallechinsky is the author of several books about the Olympics.  He says some government-sponsored Olympic programs are poorly managed. "The problem is, like anything else you put the government in charge of, there is a certain amount of corruption in some of these countries," notes Wallechinsky.  "A lot of the officials take most of the money, and it doesn't really get to the athletes.  Not all countries are like that, but it is quite common."

    At the height of the cold war, athletes from the Soviet Union were dependent on government money, but today Russia is more market-oriented. Public funding is supplemented with private sponsorship.

    But Russian Olympic cyclist Sergei Ruban says sponsors are only interested in sports that are popular on television. He says companies want the publicity that comes from being associated with popular athletes.   "Everybody today is interested in a product, a spectacle that makes for good TV," explains Ruban.  "Unfortunately, many sports don't fit in.  They aren't developed or structured to create an interesting TV product.  Accordingly, sports that do not get on TV have no sponsors."

    The United States is one of only three countries where Olympic athletes receive no government funding.  Instead the U.S. Olympic Committee relies exclusively on income from the sale of television broadcast rights and from corporate sponsors.  Steve Roush, chief of sports performance with the U.S. Olympic Committee, says while the system is not political, the U.S. Olympic program must compete for sponsors with professional teams.

    "We are in a tough economic situation now, and therefore there is less corporate [funding] to be had for sponsorship," says Roush. "And we are in a competitive marketplace with the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the [National Hockey League]."

    He says, like in Russia, corporate sponsors in the U.S. favor popular sports over others.  Many Olympic gold medal winners from the United States later make millions of dollars by advertising products.  For less popular sports like distance running, there are creative private initiatives to help support the athletes.  Keith Hanson and his brother own shoe stores in the Midwestern city of Detroit.  They provide distance runners with free housing, health insurance, coaching, free running shoes and gear, and part-time jobs in their stores.

    "One nice thing about our country is that we do have private individuals who can then step up and take over these responsibilities that many think the governing body should do," says Hanson.

    While every Olympic program in the world would like more money, funding is limited and tied to a nation's economic status and political system.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora