Funds will flow - Sport ministry to roll out athlete-assistance payments this week
Sport Minister Olivia Grange says that athletes who were in training for the now-postponed Tokyo Olympics should still expect financial support from the Government, starting this week.
The funding comes under the Athlete Assistance Programme (AAP), which was launched earlier this month to provide financial assistance to athletes who have qualified or were on the verge of qualifying for the Olympics in their respective sports. The programme was to pay out $20,000 weekly to cover the cost of training and other essential needs for 18 weeks. The announcement follows Grange’s statements on Wednesday in which she said that the agreed sum for the month of March would be honoured despite the decision last Tuesday from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the local organising committees to push back the Games “no later than summer 2021” because of the coronavirus pandemic. She said that the approval of the final list of athletes who met the criteria for the grant allowed for the $80,000-monthly figure to be transferred.
“We have finally signed off on the list of eligible athletes with the local governing bodies, and we can now move to make direct deposits to the accounts of each of the approximately 150 athletes,” Grange said.
The programme, which was valued between $50 million and $70 million, will award the March stipend to athletes from seven disciplines: track and field, karate, gymnastics, rugby, canoeing, aquatics, and boxing.
World Championships discus silver medallist Fedrick Dacres said that he is appreciative of the stipend because track and field athletes have lost appearance fees because of postponed or cancelled meets or from not having sponsors.
“I appreciate that because athletes are not earning as much [because we would already have been on the circuit],” Dacres said. “It [also] helps a lot because not everyone who might have been on the programme would have had sponsorship to buffer them during this situation.”
Grange says that she has directed the initiative to be re-evaluated by the APP committee, led by experienced sports administrator Mike Fennell, with the local governing bodies to find a way forward.