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  • Writer's pictureMaria Flori

Unfunded Runner’s Olympic Dream Stumbles on the Road to Support

Dutch Olympic participants face challenges regarding lack of support and funding. The Groninger got some insights from a Groningen-based  professional 800-meter runner, who is currently preparing for the upcoming Olympics in Paris 2024.

Bram Buigel does not just have to deal with the fierce competition that could keep him from competing in the Paris Olympics. In fact, his biggest obstacle lies in receiving the necessary funding for all his training needs.

Interviewing Bram Buigel at a local coffee © Maria Flori

According to a spokesperson of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Lieselot Meelker, the earnings of the Olympics are channeled to support athletes and general global sports development. So the revenue is to benefit athletes and sports organizations.

So far Buigel’s experience suggests otherwise. “It's not like I'm handed wads of cash,” he says. The IOC will indeed cover Buigel’s basic travel and clothing expenses when on the Olympic Games, but he still requires funding to cover essential aspects before participating such as, training, facilities, necessary equipment and a sports center to practice at, which are not covered.

Struggle for Recognition and Support in Dutch Athletics

“It's a tough road, especially in the Netherlands. You're on your own for most of the journey,” Buigel says. The Dutch national system, despite being wealthy, seems to lack the necessary funding to adequately support aspiring athletes.

His international experience in races and sports camps gave Buigel an insight on how sports work outside the Netherlands. He notes that athletes from abroad receive substantial support, both financially and emotionally, creating a strong sense of importance. “I've got friends, like Christos, a Greek athlete. He's treated like a star. He gets funding, contracts, and recognition,” Buigel says.

“Once you're at the top, it's paradise – all the attention, funding, and support,” says Buigel. Dutch athletes recognition is very limited and public attention is typically drawn to them when there is a major victory, without providing any help to the tough journey which comes before a win.

Striving Against All Odds

Buigel suggests his focus needs to be on the training, rather than in the funding. Right now that is not the case. Buigel has set up a GoFundMe website to fund his training camps, diet, and other costs that would allow him to join the Dutch team in Paris. He has also begun offering motivational speeches as a means to reach his goal.

“I’m much more focused on the money, which is annoying because I just want to focus on improving,” admits Buigel.

On top of Buigel’s financial struggles he has to hurdle with his performance. In order for the IOC to accept his participation in the Olympic Games, he has to improve his race by 0.1 second, which is way harder than it sounds. Ultimately, this means Buigel must split his efforts in two: cutting one second from his 800m time, while looking for ways to fund his dreams.

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