Unlike Olympic athletes in many countries, U.S. Olympic athletes receive little or no financial support from the Federal Government.
There is the U.S. Olympic Committee with some $170 million in operating budget. $170 million seems like an awfully paltry sum when you consider the number of Olympic hopefuls, the sport disciplines, insurance costs for athletes, organizational budget for the organization etc. This is the U.S.A. and things are not exactly cheap.
Let me put their budget in perspective: An F-22 Raptor fighter jet costs $137 million.
An Olympic athlete not only has to find the time and motivation to work towards an Olympic medal but also has to find methods to finance their effort. In contrast, Chinese athletes (and also athletes in many countries) are government supported and get salaries. I do not think making ends meet can be easy as only a selected few get the big endorsements and only if they are exceptional winners like Michael Phelps.
U.S. athletes do get a payout if they win an Olympic medal but it does not compare to other countries like Italy, Russia or China.
Here are some numbers for a Gold medal bonus for various countries:
Now considering that U.S. Olympians are competing with little or no support from the government, its simply amazing that the U.S. does so well in the Olympics. I welcome the President’s support to the proposal for giving all Olympic earnings a tax exemption but that’s not nearly enough. U.S. Olympians have already served their nation far more than any other group of people I can think of. Its high time athletes were supported with stipends, cash incentives and how about diverting some money from “bridges to nowhere” kind of projects to Olympic hopefuls.
With more funds I am sure many athletes who give up for financial reasons can continue to pursue a sport that ultimately brings glory not only to themselves but also to the U.S.A.