Funding the Olympic Movement

Grade Level: 
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Youth Club
The history and philanthropy of the Olympic Movement

by Ashley Brooks



The Olympic Movement is a concept that was designed by the International Olympic Committee(IOC) for the modern Olympic games. It encompasses everyone involved with the games including the National Olympic Committees, International Sports Federations as well as other stakeholders such as athletes, judges, broadcasters, etc. The IOC established the Olympic Movement to help express the meaning behind the games as the games take place every two years (winter and summer games). The following passage is the OIC’s goal of the Olympic movement:

to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind, in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play”(International Olympic Games).

In addition, the Olympic Movement embodies and promotes the Olympic philosophy or, as the IOC coined the term, Olympism. Olympism promotes social responsibility, universal respect and good mental, physical and emotional health through sport and cultural education. The IOC describes the Olympism as follows:

“Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles”( Olympic Charter, Fundamental principles, paragraph 2).

The IOC charges each National Olympic Committee with the responsibility to develop its sports programs and high performance athletes from their country that demonstrate the Olympic Movement and philosophy. In addition, these National Olympic Committees are also responsible for all funding associated with its athletes. For most countries the funding comes from their government, corporate sponsorship and personal fundraising. The United States, however, funds raised are only in the form of philanthropic support, from corporate or individual sponsorship – the government does not play a role in funding the US Team.


Historic Roots

The Ancient Olympic games have a long, uncertain history. One of the more popular legends of its origins derive from Greek Mythology. In this legend, Hercules, son of Zeus, is said to have built a stadium in Olympia, Greece to host a sporting festival in honor of his father. The sporting events were held every four years until, as historians have theorized, an emperor in 393 A.D. banned all festivals which did not directly practice Christianity. Thus, ultimately ending the ancient Olympic tradition until its revival in 1896. (

While the Ancient Olympic games have a less known history, the Modern Olympic games have been widely documented giving a richer history which begins with French educator and historian, Pierre de Frédy. Pierre is considered to be the father of the modern games giving rise to the first Modern Olympic game in 1896. Perceived to be superb at advocating the benefits of reestablishing the Olympic games and determined to see its revival, Pierre was eventually approved by Congress to start an International Olympic Committee which would plan the first modern game in the initial origin of the Olympics.  (Your Dictionary)

The first games took place in Athens, Greece. 241 athletes participated from 14 countries of which Greece, Germany, France and Great Britain had the most delegations. (International Olympic Games, Athens). After this revival, Olympic game took place every four years with the exception of three games that were canceled due to the World Wars. In the continuation of the traditional games, each year it grew – with the 2016 games in Rio having 11303 athletes from 207 countries.


Importance of the Games

The Modern Olympics Games, although a sporting competition, promotes the idea of the Olympic Movement that not only works to teach individuals of all ages of the value of hard work and perseverance but also cultural respect and understanding. Each Olympic game promotes inspiring athlete’s stories that resonates and motivates individuals, showcase a country’s strengths and shortcomings, as well as promote universal respect towards the world’s diversity. Overall, every two years, the countries have a stage to teach, motivate and be of good example of positive, civic-minded individual through sportsmanship.


Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

Preparing for the Olympics is an ongoing effort. Athletes need funding not only during the Olympic season but also during the “off” season as training begins years prior to the actual games. Most athletes need assistance with the cost of training coaches, materials and equipment (shoes, fencing gear, etc.), nutritional needs, and/or injury prevention exams. In addition, often times these athletes are working full or part-time jobs and have a family to support, which add additional needs for support for child care, travel and healthcare.

The U.S. Olympic Committee Foundation was created to assist these Olympic hopefuls with the means of funding on their behalf. Without the assistance of the U.S. government, the foundation solicits for individuals and corporate philanthropic support. This support can be in-kind or monetary.

Corporate philanthropy

Many worldwide corporations such as Coca-Cola and McDonalds support the team as well as domestic corporations such as Smucker’s, AT&T and many others. A more extensive list can be found at, While some corporations simply give a monetary gift, others support the team through in-kind or marketing support of which align with the corporation’s mission or means for philanthropic support. For example, the breakfast cereal Wheaties support Team USA through their promotion “The breakfast of Champions” which feature an athlete on the front, side or back of the box. Another example Ralph Lauren which designs and provides the team with the Opening Ceremonies outfits.

Individual philanthropy

Individual philanthropic occur in two fold, by donors that donate directly to the USOCF and those that donate directly to an athletes personal fundraising. As time has progressed and new technologies arose, many athletes are turning towards Crowdfunding as a source to share their case for support and gain philanthropic funding. However, in addition to each athlete’s personal lives and training lives, the athletes are finding it difficult to include fundraising as well – a skill of which most athletes do not feel competent in doing anyways. The USOCF is attempting to fill that gap so that athletes can focus on their training and not be concerned with personal fundraising.


Key Related Ideas

  • Laurel Award – Award given for the first time in 2016 Rio games honoring Olympic athletes that continue to exhibit the Olympic Spirit by promoting peace through sport. Kipchoge Keino, a retired distance runner, was the first to receive the award for his efforts in providing a home to Kenyan orphans as well as a training centre for Kenya hopefuls.

  • Paralympics – Parallel with the Olympic games the Paralympics is an international sports competition for individuals with an array of physical disabilities. The Paralympics occur shortly after the Olympics and contain much of the same sporting competitions.

  • Victory Tax – Income tax paid by athlete upon winning a medal. Medals themselves are worth its actual monetary; for example, the value of a gold medal is based off golds current market value and the amount of gold the medal contains. In addition, the U.S Olympic Committee provides victory bonuses to medal winners. The IRS sees these winnings as it does with lottery winnings, therefore requires it to be taxed.


Important People Related to the Topic

  • Pierre de Coubertin (1890)– Founder of the Modern Olympics

  • Jesse Owens (1936) – Competitive track and field Olympian winning four gold medals. Owens was most well-known for his sprints and long jump during the 1936 world games held in Germany during Hitler’s ruling. Although braking records and winning gold, Owens faced extreme discrimination including not being invited to shake the hands of the president as other medalist were invited to do so.

  • Michael Phelps (2008) – Most decorated Olympian of all times. Phelps was a competitive swimmer and won a told of 28 medals over the course of 4 Olympic games.   


Related Nonprofit Organizations

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is the overarching facilitator between all stakeholders involved in the Olympic Games. The IOC has the final authority and is charged with ensuring games align with the good Olympic Charter. 

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation is headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The foundation raises funds in support of all Olympic hopefuls. 

The International Paralympic Committee is the internal facilitator of all stakeholders involved in the Paralympic Movement. 

The International Olympic Academy mission is to function as an International Academic Centre for Olympic Studies, Education and Research.

The Olympic Museum is a museum in Switzerland that dives into the history of the Olympics. The online website provides a great video library and other videos regarding the Olympics.


Reflection Question - If other countries receive funding from the government in support of their Olympic team, should America as well? Should the IOC set a standard that is represented across all countries?


Bibliography and Internet Sources

  • International Olympic Games. Promote Olympism In Society.
  • International Olympic Committee. Olympic Charter, Fundamental Principles, August, 2016
  • Staff, “The Olympic Games”. 2010
  • Pierre de Coubertin. YourDictionary. 2001
  • International Olympic Games. Athens 1986.


This paper was developed by students taking a Philanthropic Studies course taught at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University in 2017. It is offered by Learning to Give and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.