Tokyo postponement forced USOPC to rethink

·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: The giant Olympic rings, which are being temporarily removed for maintenance, are seen behind Japan's national flag, at the waterfront area at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo
FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: The giant Olympic rings, which are being temporarily removed for maintenance, are seen behind Japan's national flag, at the waterfront area at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo

(Reuters) - The postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Games forced the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) to rethink how it operates, board chair Susanne Lyons said on Thursday at the organisation's annual assembly.

The meeting comes amid sweeping changes for the U.S. Olympic system, with legislation pending to offer athletes greater protection after the Larry Nassar gymnastic abuse scandal, and as the program reels from the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused the Tokyo Olympics to be pushed back a year.

"The postponement has forced us all to consider the way we work, the programs we fund, and the way we staff our organizations," Lyons said.

"It has created significant financial challenges both for the USOPC and the (National Governing Bodies)."

The USOPC eliminated 51 jobs and furloughed 33 employees in May in a bid to reduce expenses by 10-20% over the next four years. It offered a bleak view of its finances in August, with its 2019 tax return showing spending had outpaced revenue by $54 million.

"Last year I talked about evolution and 'Jurassic Park'. I know this year feels a bit more like 'Apocalypse Now'," said Lyons.

The USOPC Assembly, being held virtually due to the pandemic, offers a chance to refine the organisation's five-year plan, she said, with issues including "future pipeline and youth sport development, high performance support and long-term financial stability" at the forefront.

"With an incredibly important and unprecedented stretch before us – two Games in 18 months, with many risks and unknowns – strong and diverse leadership, guided by new perspectives, experiences and backgrounds, will be critical," Lyons said.

(Reporting by Amy Tennery, editing by Ed Osmond)