World Athletics, together with the International Athletics Foundation (IAF), has set-up a support fund worth $500,000 (£400,000/€459,000) to help athletes through the financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
IAF was established in 1986 to support charity in athletics and founded by Honorary President Prince Albert II of Monaco, the IAF has allocated resources from its budgets for 2020 and 2021 to assist the athletes.
It follows an idea proposed by Morocco’s 1,500 metres world record holder Hicham El Guerrouj, the double Olympic gold medallist.
Sebastian Coe, the World Athletics President who also chairs the IAF, said the fund would help athletes who have lost income over the past few months due to the suspension of international competition.
He will chair a working group which will assess applications submitted through World Athletics’ six Area Associations.
Those on the working group include Greek pole vaulter and Athletes’ Commission member Katerina Stefanidi, and El Guerrouj.
They will meet this week to establish a process of distributing the grants to athletes and will also discuss other ways to raise money.
Two-time Olympic gold medallist Coe said it is vital for the world body to support its athletes.
“I would like to thank Hicham for bringing this idea to us, and Prince Albert for his strong support of this project,” he 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 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 mean time 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 said he has been pleased with World Athletics’ response.
Prince Albert II is an International Olympic Committee member who recovered this month after contracting coronavirus.
“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.
“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”, he added.