The Cost of Being an Olympic Athlete
The Beijing Olympics are in full swing. Most certainly there are numerous gay athletes both out of the closet and in hiding. I recently read The Advocate article on Australian swimmer Matthew Mitcham and in the print edition. If you want to talk about Queer money, just think of the sheer cost of being an Olympic athlete – as an adult or for the families of younger athletes being groomed for the Olympics. If you think having a baby is expensive well let’s just hope Nina’s family doesn’t have to raise an Olympian in the future as well (LOL!).
In all seriousness though, it is crazy expensive. In “A Backward Three-Somersault Tuck (With a Twist) ” Mitchum shares:
Today, Mitcham credits that break with getting him as far as he’s come: “I’m glad I took the time out, because if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be in this position now. I recovered physically, emotionally, and mentally–and I had a lot of fun.” But he’s been so focused on Beijing since then that he hasn’t been out with friends for more than a year and a half. And now that he’s won his ticket to China, he’ll be cheered poolside by Lachlan, courtesy of a $5,000 travel grant from Johnson & Johnson’s Athlete Family Support Program (no, there wasn’t an outcry, as you might expect in the States). His mom may be there too, thanks to some Sydney gay men and lesbians who offered to cover her expenses. “I’m very proud to be part of the gay community,” he says.
And that is just the cost of getting the family to the Olympics to watch you live out your dream. Getting there, now that is where the really big bucks are.
“It cost hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years,” says David, a 46-year-old father of five who works in his family’s real-estate company. “But I knew I was going to do whatever I had to make sure he followed his dream.” Olympian’s dad: ‘Never again’
For so many young athletes and their parents, reaching for an Olympic berth is a fiscal, as well as a physical, challenge. Think about it: coaches, clothing, housing, food, travel and baby sitters for siblings.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars. Think about that — could your budget handle such sacrifice and expense for Olympic glory without sabotaging your future? Unlike so many countries, the US athletes do not receive any government money for their training. Personally I believe that is partly why the US started to allow professional athletes to compete in the Olympics – because the other country’s athletes were already technically professionals (i.e. getting paid to train and compete) and it was just too lucrative for US athletes to go pro (as in make a living) versus stick around for the next Olympics and represent the country. Of course for many sports it is a non-issue (you don’t see too many professional swimmers touring the country do you?) but in some major sports like basketball and cycling it made a big deal.
For many years athletes couldn’t even accept endorsements. That has changed however:
For many years, Olympic athletes weren’t allowed to accept endorsements, prizes or corporate sponsorships to underwrite training or living expenses. That changed in 1978 with the adoption of the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act. And over the past 30 years, regulations have been changed several times to increase financial support for the athletes. In 1992, the Olympic Games began to allow professional athletes to compete.
In the article it talks about how families have relied on reverse mortgages, support from the community, and other creative financing to make it happen. For athletes who succeed at the Olympics and can land major endorsement and other professional gigs, they might reap major financial rewards. For most, it is only an investment in living out a dream.
Not sure if any of our readers have direct experience with funding Olympic dreams, but would love to hear you chime in – if not regarding Olympics – how about what you’ve been willing to do to fund your life long dreams?
Paula Gregorowicz, owner of The Paula G. Company, works with lesbianswho are ready to create their lives and businesses in a way that fits who they are rather than how they were told they “should”. Get the free 12 part eCourse “How to Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin” http://www.coaching4lesbians.com and start taking charge of your own success.