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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Tokyo Olympics postponement means that nearly $200 million in media rights fees, which the International Olympic Committee was set to distribute to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, likely won't arrive until August 2021.

Why it matters: While this certainly puts a financial strain on the USOPC, it also illuminates the larger issue of how the committee distributes its funds, with athletes occupying the bottom of a trickle-down system that leaves many destitute even in the best of times.

What they're saying: In a 2018 segment of "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel," snowboarder Jonathan Cheever, who competed in Pyeongchang, said that the little help he got from the USOPC — a $1,500 stipend, plus health insurance — only covered a fraction of his costs.

  • In fact, when he wasn't training, he had to work as a licensed plumber to help pay off the $70,000+ in debt he'd racked up on his credit card.
  • Meanwhile, 14 USOPC execs were paid $200,000+ that year, while another 115 staff members made six figures.

The big picture: The USOPC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, making it one of the few national Olympic committees that don't receive government funding. Hence why this $200 million cash crunch could hit American athletes particularly hard.

  • "Our nation stands apart from others because our Olympic and Paralympic teams are not just cheered by an enthusiastic national fan base, but also funded by one," the U.S. Olympic Foundation, a nonprofit that fundraises for the USOPC, proudly states on its website.
  • By comparison, the U.K. government pours ~$709 million into UK Sport, an agency that manages funding and partnerships for Olympic athletes; and in Canada, the government invests ~$153 million into the Olympics annually, per Mother Jones.

The bottom line: We love the Olympics because they give us all a chance to come together every 2–4 years and get the patriotic warm-and-fuzzies. But behind the scenes, the USOPC's financial distribution model causes undue strain on Olympic hopefuls — and those purse strings just got even tighter.

Go deeper

Aug 9, 2021 - Sports

Chinese authorities plan stricter approach to COVID-19 for Beijing Games

The emblem of Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games is installed at Shijingshan district on Aug. 1. Photo: Vcg/Vcg via Getty Images

Chinese authorities are planning COVID-19 mitigation measures for next year's Beijing Winter Games that are "expected to go far beyond those taken" in Tokyo, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The Tokyo Olympics ended Sunday with over 400 infections reported. While spectators were banned from the Games and other strict protocols were in place, "enforcement was haphazard, and news outlets found many violations," the Times notes.

Aug 10, 2021 - Technology

Tokyo Olympics ratings spiral, spelling trouble for traditional TV

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Primetime ratings for the Tokyo Olympic Games were down 42% from the 2016 Games, according to data from NBCUniversal.

Why it matters: It's an undeniable proof point that the decline of traditional television is happening faster than initially expected. It also points to the ways media diets and interests have become more polarized and divided in the digital era.

Biden says he'll make Supreme Court pick by end of February

President Biden speaks on the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Thursday said he will announce the nominee for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's replacement by the end of February.

Driving the news: Biden also affirmed that he will nominate a Black woman to replace Breyer, saying "it's long overdue."