In First, World Athletics To Pay Prize Money For Olympic Golds

Gold medal winners in each of the 48 athletics events in Paris will receive $50,000 (46,000 euros).


World Athletics announced on Wednesday it will become the first international federation to award prize money at an Olympics, beginning at this year’s Games in Paris.

Gold medal winners in each of the 48 athletics events in Paris will receive $50,000 (46,000 euros).

While athletes are often paid by sponsors and the Olympic tradition of amateur competition has long since been consigned to history, the decision by track and field’s international body to pay prize money represents a major shift for the Games.

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe told reporters the decision reflected the efforts of track and field athletes “which attract billions of eyeballs” to the TV coverage of the Olympics.

“I don’t believe this is remotely at variance with the concept that the International Olympic Committee often talks about, which is recognising the efforts that our competitors make for the overall success of the Games,” Coe said.

He said World Athletics had only informed the IOC of the prize money decision on Wednesday, shortly before the announcement, and there had been no discussion beforehand.

Asked if he felt the IOC should have been given more notice, Coe said: “It’s a matter for the sport. The one thing the IOC has consistently recognised is the primacy of international federations to fashion their own futures.”

The total prize fund of $2.4 million will come from the IOC’s revenue share allocation that World Athletics receives every four years.


– ‘Different planet’ –


Each Olympic champion will receive $50,000 and relay teams will receive the same amount, to be shared among team members.

Prize money will be extended to the winners of silver and bronze medals from the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

“The introduction of prize money for Olympic gold medallists is a pivotal moment for World Athletics and the sport of athletics as a whole, underscoring our commitment to empowering the athletes and recognising the critical role they play in the success of any Olympic Games,” Coe added.

“We are now in a position to also fund gold medal performances for athletes in Paris, with a commitment to reward all three medallists at the LA28 Olympic Games.”

The sport of athletics began paying prize money to gold medallists at the 1997 World Championships. Winners at last year’s championships in Budapest received $70,000.

Coe said the shift to rewarding athletes financially for Olympic titles reflected that “the world had changed” since the Briton won 1500m gold medals at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics.

“Does this undermine the amateur ethic? Well, I’m probably the last generation to have been on the 75p meal voucher and a second-class rail ticket when competing for my own country,” Coe said.

“We’re now operating in a completely different planet from when I was competing, so the sport must recognise that change in landscape.”

Karsten Warholm, the reigning Olympic men’s 400m hurdles champion, told AFP the paying of prize money was “a smart move”.

“To be honest, anything offered in terms of a prize is good for the athletes, it’s motivation,” the Norwegian said.

“These athletes work hard and sacrifice and this sort of prize is very important.”

But Jonathan Edwards, the Briton who still holds the men’s triple jump world record he set in 1995, said the decision was “a little bit odd”.

“It’s not (World Athletics’) event, it’s the Olympics. It feels like a bit of an undercut to the IOC, who have been very strict around saying ‘We’re not going to have prize money’. Athletes who win at the Olympic Games already get rewards.”

Tony Estanguet, the chief organiser of the Paris Olympics and a triple Olympic gold medallist in canoeing, said he was not opposed to prize money: “I remember as an athlete, my only dream was to win an Olympic medal… It’s not for the money.

“You win when you earn this kind of medal. (Money) is not your first motivation. But it’s also important to make sure that the athletes will also earn some money.”