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USOPC financial picture looking grim as brace for COVID-19 hit

(Reuters) - The United States Olympic Paralympic Committee (USOPC) opened its books on Monday offering a bleak 2019 financial picture that is only likely to get worse when the full COVID-19 impact is felt in next year’s report.

FILE PHOTO: The giant Olympic rings are pictured two days before the start of the one-year countdown to the Tokyo Olympics that have been postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at the waterfront area at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo, Japan July 21, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato

The USOPC 2019 tax return showed it spent $54 million more than it generated in revenue last year, which in a non-Olympic year is not alarming.

But with the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games pushed back a year and the uncertainty created by the novel coronavirus outbreak, the financial challenges going forward look daunting.

Some belt tightening is already underway.

The USOPC in May announced it was eliminating 51 jobs and furloughing 33 employees in a bid to reduce expenses by 10-20% over the next four years.

USOPC chief executive officer Sarah Hirshland acknowledged the challenges ahead in a statement accompanying release of its financial statements and annual tax form.

“We can look at 2019 and be proud of the work we completed, as well as the work we started—together, as we continually seek new ways of structuring and operating,” said Hirshland.

“As we face the realities of today and uncertainties of tomorrow, we can hold our head high with the knowledge that our focus on serving the remarkable athletes of Team USA will keep us on the right path.”

The USOPC and USOPF (U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation) financial statements showed revenues of approximately $194 million for 2019, down from $317 million in 2018.

The USOPC pointed out that this due to the timing of broadcast revenues from NBC, which vary in Games years versus non-Games years.

Expenses were similarly down in a non-Games year at $248 million from $275 million in 2018.

Despite a drop in revenue, the USOPC said athlete and national governing body program funding rose 28% to just over $30 million from 2018 while support of the U.S. Center for SafeSport more than doubled going from $3 million to $7.5 million.

Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Pritha Sarkar

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