Times Staff Writer

Citing a huge shortfall in expected contributions, United Nations Children’s Fund officials acknowledged Thursday that Sport Aid--the May 25 global mega-event that occurred the same day as Hands Across America--has brought in only $15 million so far.

For three weeks following Sport Aid, UNICEF had reported that the international running event to raise funds for African famine victims had generated an estimated $100 million in contributions.

“We have a bit of a problem,” said Kristina Schellinski, UNICEF public information officer. “We had expectations that were as high as $100 million and subsequently we have counted $15 million to $20 million that we have in hand.”

The latest figures released by the USA for Africa Foundation indicate that Hands Across America has grossed twice as much in donations as Sport Aid. Ken Kragen, USA for Africa president, said Wednesday that Hands Across America appears to have earned more than $30 million thus far with more than $8 million in pledges still outstanding.


Sport Aid creator Bob Geldof had told The Times in a June 18 report on the two events that Sport Aid earned only a fraction of the $100 million UNICEF officials repeatedly had been saying that Sport Aid earned. Sport Aid funds are to be evenly divided between UNICEF and Geldof’s Live Aid Foundation.

Schellinski said UNICEF spokespersons had been instructed to use the $100-million figure in releases and in answering questions from the media. UNICEF changed its Sport Aid income figures after Geldof made the disclosure to The Times that the 1986 sequel to the Irish rock star’s triumphant 1985 Live Aid concerts had only raised about $18 million.

UNICEF Executive Director James P. Grant would not return The Times’ phone calls but Rienhard Freiberg, UNICEF deputy director of program funding, did field questions concerning the shortfall. “The latest projection from the London Sport Aid office is that approximately $15 million in a number of currencies is in hand. . . . (and) $13.4 million came from Europe alone,” Freiberg said.

Freiberg stood firm on UNICEF’s statement that Sport Aid had attracted 20 million participants. Like Hands Across America, which fell short of its projected $50-million to $100-million goal, Sport Aid apparently drew a majority of participants who made no donation or paid no entry fee, he said.


Sport Aid asked each participant in simultaneous 10K runs in 78 countries to pay a $10 entry fee. Hands Across America organizers similarly asked participants in the transcontinental line to donate a minimum $10 to hold hands.

After expenses, however, both events will have earned about the same for their respective causes.

Sport Aid cost about $900,000 to stage, Freiberg said, leaving $15 million to $20 million for UNICEF and the Live Aid Foundation to split after all donations are counted and bills are paid. That money will be contributed to African relief and development projects, he said.

Hands Across America cost $12 million to stage and has an additional $4 million to $5 million in continuing marketing and merchandise distribution costs. As a result, that project which was designed to aid the homeless and hungry in the United States also will have $15 million to $20 million to distribute to domestic relief and development projects.


Both benefits are continuing to generate income from merchandise sales and fund-raisers.

The official Hands Across America commemorative paperback goes on sale this week. Published by Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books division, the book features photos and reports from along the human chain. An hourlong television special is also in production.

Freiberg said countries that did not participate in Sport Aid because it fell in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan are now staging their own 10K races. Nigeria is among the nations which have held their races within the past two weeks, he said.