PRINT: USOPC Athlete Reps Olympics (copy)

Gazette file photo.

The Colorado Springs-based U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said Thursday it cut 51 permanent workers and furloughed 33 others in an attempt to grapple with budget shortfalls caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

In a statement sent to employees, USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland said the organization also ended the assignments of 23 temporary workers and offered 32 employees reassignment. In 2018 tax filings, the most recent year available, the Olympic committee reported it had 591 employees.

"I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of this change," Hirshland wrote. "It is significant."

In April, the committee began plans to cut expenses up to 20%, the statement said. Layoffs and furloughs were expected by the end of May. 

"We have also continued to learn more about the future and the challenges we all face in returning to work, to training and to events and competitions," Hirshland wrote. "It has become clear that it will take months, and not weeks, for us to return to full operation, particularly at our training centers in Colorado Springs and Lake Placid."

The Olympic Committee saw the 2020 Tokyo games postponed for a year, which cut the revenue from sources including sponsorships and television deals.

The Olympic committee cuts come as other sports from minor league baseball teams to the NFL face lost revenue from cancelled games.

One advocate for Olympians worried that the cuts could impact athletes who are readying for the delayed Tokyo games.

"First of all, I feel for anyone who lost a job, but my focus right now is making sure that athletes competing in the next summer Olympics have all the support they need during this difficult time," said former Olympian and athlete advocate Eli Bremer. "My hope is that the positions that were cut were not positions that directly impact athletes or the Olympic Training Center."

"Several areas" of planned investments over the next four years will be re-evaluated at a virtual town hall Tuesday, Hirshland said. 

"At the end of a difficult day, and a tough month, we must all be asking ourselves if something that feels so awful is necessary and right," she said. "I believe that these actions are the right ones. All of this will make the difference."

The nonprofit claimed revenues of more than $322 million on tax forms filed last year. The Committee had assets of $265 million.

But revenue for the committee swings wildly depending on whether its athletes are competing in the semiannual games.

Without games in 2017, the committee claimed revenue of $183 million and an annual operating loss that year of more than $30 million, tax records show.

The committee also could face unprecedented potential liabilities in the form of pending lawsuits from athletes who claim they were victims of sexual assaults the organization should have stopped.

Plaintiffs in those suits include alleged victims of former USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar, who is serving a 60 year prison sentence after his 2018 conviction on a string of sexual assault charges.

The Olympic Committee, while saying more could have been done to stop Nassar, has so far denied liability in the suits.

The Olympic Committee has also redoubled its commitment to supporting athletes and a program to stamp out sexual assault and care for victims.

In her email, Hirshland listed support for athletes as the committee's top priority.

"Sustain the resources required for Team USA athletes to achieve competitive success," she wrote.

Gazette reporter Stephanie Earls contributed to this report

Contact Liz Henderson, 719-476-1623

Twitter: @GazetteLiz

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