23 August 2008 :Olympic Solidarity is there to ensure that athletes with talent, regardless of their financial status, have an even chance of reaching the Olympic Games, or even winning an Olympic medal.
Working with the most needy National Olympic Committees, Olympic Solidarity develops assistance programmes and offers scholarships to athletes. Over the past four years the total amount allocated by Olympic Solidarity to global sport development programmes has been just under a quarter of a billion dollars.
Specialist training centres
The Olympic scholarships cover the costs for an athlete to attend specialist training centres for anything up to 24 months leading up to the Games. Four years ago in Athens Olympic Solidarity athletes won a total of 57 medals, including 17 gold. To date, in Beijing the Olympic scholarship holders have already won 58 medals and this number is likely to increase over the last few days of competition.
Bindra and Bolt
In Beijing there are a total of 586 athletes from 150 different nations who have benefited from an Olympic Solidarity Scholarship, among them several gold medalists including Abhinav Bindra, winner of the 10m Air Rifle competition and the first Indian ever to win an individual Olympic gold medal and who was able to use the scholarship to train for two years at the USA’s national training centre in Colorado Springs; and Usain Bolt, the new 100m and 200m Olympic champion and world record holder from Jamaica who benefitted from Olympic Solidarity’s assistance since the age of 17 when he was identified after having won the World Junior 200m title.
Romanian judo success
Alina Dumitru won Romania’s first ever Olympic judo gold medal in the 48kg category. The 25-year-old, who finished fifth four years ago in Athens, destroyed Yanet Bermoy of Cuba in the final, winning with ippon after only 80 seconds. She also caused a huge upset in the semi-final when she beat Japan’s Ryoko Tani, who was aiming to win a record third successive Olympic title.
Pride of Zimbabwe
Swimmer Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe, winner of gold, silver and bronze in Athens, did even better this time with three silver medals to add to the gold she won with a new world record in the 200m backstroke. Coventry is still Zimbabwe’s only individual Olympic medalist.
Afghan pride restored
A taekwondo athlete from Kabul, Rohullah Nikpai, won his countries first ever Olympic medal in any sport by winning bronze in the men’s under 58kg competition yesterday. Olympic Solidarity has work closely with the Afghan NOC and their taekwondo athletes since 2004 by placing them in a number of training camps across the world to perfect their skills in view of their participation in Beijing.