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World Athletics will pay $50,000 to Olympic gold medalists in track and field events

Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas wins the gold medal during the women's 400-meters during the Tokyo Olympic Games in August 2021.
Matthias Hangst
Getty Images
Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas wins the gold medal during the women's 400-meters during the Tokyo Olympic Games in August 2021.

World Athletics, the governing body that oversees track and field competitions worldwide, will award $50,000 in prize money to gold medal winners at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

In doing so, the organization will become the first international federation to offer prize money directly to Olympic medalists, a landmark moment in the Olympic Games' slow-but-sure shift away from amateurism.

In total, the World Athletics prize pot for 2024 will amount to $2.4 million for the 48 men's and women's athletics events, which include track and field competitions like the 100-meter run, pole vault and javelin, alongside road races such as the marathon and race walk. Relay teams of four will split the winnings with $12,500 apiece.

In Wednesday's announcement, World Athletics also said it would pay prize money on a tiered basis to all medal winners in the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, with details to be announced closer to the event.

"While it is impossible to put a marketable value on winning an Olympic medal, or on the commitment and focus it takes to even represent your country at an Olympic Games, I think it is important we start somewhere and make sure some of the revenues generated by our athletes at the Olympic Games are directly returned to those who make the Games the global spectacle that it is," said Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics and a two-time Olympic gold medal runner.

The prize money comes from payments to World Athletics from the International Olympic Committee, which brings in billions of dollars in revenue from broadcasting deals and other sponsorships. The IOC then redistributes millions each year to international sporting federations and national Olympic committees.

The IOC was not aware of the decision until shortly before World Athletics made the public announcement, Coe said.

No other sporting federations have announced similar plans to compensate medalists.

Some countries give their athletes bonuses for medaling

Many Olympic athletes receive medal bonuses from their home countries. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee awards its athletes $37,500 for gold medals, $22,500 for silver and $15,000 for bronze. Some countries that field far fewer athletes offer much larger bonuses: Hong Kong offers the equivalent of about $638,000 to gold medalists, and Singapore offers about $740,000. But other countries, including the U.K. and New Zealand, offer no prize money at all.

The $50,000 prizes for gold medalists underscore World Athletics' "commitment to empowering the athletes and recognising the critical role they play in the success of any Olympic Games," Coe said.

The costs to train and compete in the Olympics can be extremely high for athletes, who must pay thousands of dollars each year for coaching and travel to events, all while they forgo traditional career earnings in order to pursue their sport. Like many countries, the United States does not offer direct federal support for its Olympic athletes.

Some athletes, especially those who compete in sports that attract the highest viewership, such as gymnastics, are able to earn money from sponsorship deals.

Karsten Warholm, a Norwegian sprinter who won a gold medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, welcomed the news.

"I think it's good so I want to salute them for it," Warholm told Reuters. Norway is among the countries that does not offer a bonus to its medalists. "It doesn't change my motivation to win because for the Olympics I'm not in it for the money. The gold medal is worth a lot more to me personally."

Copyright 2024 NPR

Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.