USOPC Says Transparency Behind New Reporting

(ATR) A package of documents reveal the health and wealth of the world's leading National Olympic Committee.

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Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony
Rio Olympics Opening Ceremony

(ATR) A package of reports from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee provide a picture of the health and wealth of the world’s top National Olympic Committee.

Documents show revenue at $193 million for 2019 with expenses at $248 million, a deficit of more than $54 million. That’s due largely to a falloff in TV revenues in a non-Olympic year. That red ink might be the deathknell for NOCs around the world, many of which depend on government support as a primary source of funding. The privately funded USOPC receives no such support. Instead, a nest egg worth nearly $1 billion is available for the USOPC from rights fee payments from NBC.

That’s how much the USOPC will collect from NBC beginning next year through 2032. According to the consolidated financial statement -- one of the documents in the package released August 3 -- NBC has been paying the USOPC $139 million for each Olympics through 2020. From 2021 that number goes up to $162 million per games, six of them during the period.

While the future may seem bright on paper, all these figures are compiled based on a world prior to the devastation brought by the coronavirus in 2020. The pandemic has forced the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics until next year, a move that means no substantial revenue from NBC for a second year in a row. CEO Sarah Hirshland acknowledges in a letter accompanying the documents that "circumstances have changed considerably over the past several months".

The USOPC has negotiated early retirements and cut bonuses for staff as one of the countermeasures to the financial hardship brought by the pandemic. Hirshland says the USOPC must "be resilient in the face of adversity".

The documents released August 3 include the 990 form as it is known in IRS parlance. The filing is required for nonprofit organizations such as the USOPC annually and is customarily made public. Perhaps of most interest is the information covering compensation for key executives. The 990 for 2019 puts Hirshland at the top of the ladder in Colorado Springs. In her second year of employment, the IRS filing says she was paid just under $786,000. The second highest paid staff member is Christopher McCleary, General Counsel at $492,000. He is followed by Rich Adams, head of National Governing Bodies and the Paralympics with $402,000 a year.

One of the documents included in this package is a new version of what was formerly known as the annual report.Now called the Impact Report, the document summarizes the steps taken in 2019 towards solving issues facing the USOPC. In particular for 2019, those related to the questions of governance and accountability arising from the USA Gymnastics sexual abuse scandal as well as other instances of abusive behavior in other sports that fall under the watch of the USOPC.

In her letter, Hirshland says the new Impact Report addresses progress for the five-year strategic plan of the USOPC.

"Our four strategic priorities—and where you’ll see us invest and make substantive change in the coming years—are focused around creating a better experience for athletes; improving the effectiveness of all the organizations that serve Team USA; establishing an athletes-first culture; and ultimately preparing for the transformational opportunity represented by hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games in LA in 2028. This is a plan that was, for the first time in our organization’s history, co-created by representatives from across our diverse community," Hirshland writes.

She also notes that a new set of documents released will provide a picture into how financial support is allocated to the 61 sporting entities that receive money from the USOPC.

Called the Sport Benefit Statements, Hirshland says reports are aimed at increasing transparency.

"For years, we have heard that our finances, specifically those related to NGB and athlete support were hard to understand or decipher. The Sport Benefit Statements aim to answer those questions with a new level of detail and insight—and show a relationship that is at once hugely supportive but also rooted in thoughtful efficiencies and a deep focus on sound stewardship," she says.

Hirshland says 2019 was a year she says brought "some of the most sweeping governance changes the USOPC has ever seen—not for the sake of change, but because we believe it will improve athlete well-being and develop a stronger system of accountability.

"We ended 2019 a very different organization—in culture, in mindset and in how we operate—and we are better positioned to steward the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movements than we have ever been before," she says.

Written by Ed Hula.