July 23, 2020 / 6:06 PM / 16 days ago

USOPC launches fund for athletes facing COVID-19 hardship

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

(Reuters) - United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) announced a new fund on Thursday to support athletes facing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Games.

The Olympics were due to begin in Japan on Friday but the Games have instead been delayed until July 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic that has globally infected more than 15 million people and claimed more than 600,000 lives.

“We have heard loud and clear there is a heightened need to help alleviate the financial burdens many are facing,” USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland said.

USOPC said the fund was set up with an anonymous $500,000 donation and its fundraising arm was working with donors to increase the fund.

The fund will provide a “one-time stipend” to qualifying athletes who are either in training for - or in contention to compete at - either the Tokyo Olympics or the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

“The final grant amount will be determined following the completion of fundraising efforts ... at the end of September 2020, and in conjunction with an assessment of the total number of applicants in October 2020,” USOPC said on its website.

Reporting By Amy Tennery, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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