Coronavirus: World Athletics launches $500,000 fund for struggling athletes

Omnisport

World Athletics has launched a $500,000 fund alongside the International Athletics Foundation (IAF) to help athletes affected financially by the coronavirus pandemic.

The world of sport has been decimated by the outbreak of COVID-19, which has seen the Olympic Games in Tokyo postponed by a year until 2021.

That had a knock-on effect with the World Athletics Championships, originally scheduled for 2021 in Oregon, pushed back by 12 months, while the 2020 European Championships have been cancelled.

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A World Athletics statement said the fund will be used to help athletes who have lost the majority of their income from the suspension of international competition.

Resources from the 2020 and 2021 budgets of the IAF, of which Prince Albert II of Monaco is honorary president, will be allocated to help athletes. 

World Athletics president and IAF chair Sebastian Coe will front "an expert multi-regional working group to assess the applications for assistance, which will be submitted through World Athletics' six Area Associations".

Olympic champion and 1500 metres world record-holder Hicham El Guerrouj and Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi are among the members of the working group, which will convene in the coming week for talks over how to award and distribute grants to individual athletes and to assess means of raising additional monies for the fund.

"I would especially like to thank Hicham for bringing this idea to us, and Prince Albert for his strong support of this project," Coe said. 

"I am in constant contact with athletes around the world and I know that many are experiencing financial hardship as a consequence of the shutdown of most international sports competition in the last two months. 

"Our professional athletes rely on prize money as part of their income and we're mindful that our competition season, on both the track and road, is being severely impacted by the pandemic. 

"We are hopeful that we will be able to stage at least some competition later this year, but in the meantime we will also endeavour, through this fund and additional monies we intend to seek through the friends of our sport, to help as many athletes as possible."

El Guerrouj added: "The pandemic is causing economic pain to people from all parts of society, including athletes, and this is a time when we must come together as a global community to help each other. 

"I am delighted that Seb and World Athletics reacted so positively to my suggestion that we create a fund for athletes, and have made it happen with the support of the International Athletics Foundation. 

"The suspension of competition has had a huge impact on many professional athletes because they can't earn prize money so I'm really pleased that we have found a way to assist them."

Prince Albert II said he hopes the initiative can help athletes continue preparations for next year's Games.

"I created more than 35 years ago the International Athletics Foundation with the late Primo Nebiolo to encourage and promote athletics and grant financial assistance to athletics federations and the most deserving athletes," he said. 

"Since its inception the Foundation has distributed for these purposes more than $30million. I am delighted that we can put our resources behind this initiative so we can make a difference to the lives of athletes who are suffering financially at this time. 

"We hope that this support will help those athletes preparing for international competition, including next year's Olympic Games, to sustain their training, support their families and that this will relieve them of some stress in these uncertain times."

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