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Monday, May 27, 2024

In Olympic First, Track Gold Medalists to Get $50K in Paris

  • The Olympics have historically been an amateur event. 
  • Silver and gold payouts reportedly are coming in the 2028 Summer Games.
James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Track and field—one of the many Olympic sports where even champions can live a grinding existence financially—will directly pay its gold medalists tens of thousands of dollars for the first time.

Gold medalists will net $50,000 in Paris, World Athletics said Wednesday, making it the first sport to pay out prize money at the Olympics.

The move symbolizes a break with the Olympics’ amateur-filled past. Track and field is one of the most-watched events in the Games, with the men’s 100-meter dash winner crowned the “World’s Fastest Man.”

World Athletics said it would reserve $2.4 million to pay the gold medalists $50,000 across 48 events for this summer’s Paris Olympics. Relay teams will split the money with their teammates. Silver and bronze medalists are slated to start getting prize money at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. The prize money will come out of the revenue share World Athletics, the governing body of athletics, gets from the International Olympic Committee. The IOC rakes in billions every Olympic cycle.

Sebastian Coe, the president of World Athletics, said the decision is “to recognize that the revenue share that we receive is in large part because our athletes are the stars of the show.”

The move is a fundamental shift from the Olympics’ long history of the IOC and other governing bodies pocketing the lucrative revenue the Games produce. The IOC doesn’t distribute prize money, though many medalists receive payments from their sponsors or national federations.

Coe said he gave the IOC “a heads-up” before announcing World Athletics’ intentions Wednesday. The decision could be perceived as a power play by Coe, a former British politician who has long been rumored to be interested in running the IOC. It’s unknown whether other sports will start paying their own gold medalists in light of Wednesday’s announcement. 

Coe, a former British runner who won gold at the 1980 and ’84 Games in the 1,500-meter run, said he’s aware of the changes that have come since his own career ended, which is why he understands the implications of what he’s doing. 

“It’s a completely different planet from when I was competing,” Coe said. “So it’s very important that this sport recognizes the change in that landscape and the added pressures on many competitors.”

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