Olympic Games to Award Prize Money to Track and Field Medal Winners

In a first for the Olympic Games, track and field sports will become the first Olympic events to award prize money to medal-winning athletes. World Athletics reports that gold medalists at the 2024 Paris Olympics will receive $50,000 in prize money.

Funds set aside

According to the new plan, $2.4 million will be set aside to pay gold-medal winners across the 48 track and field events at the 2024 Olympics in Paris. The $50,000 will be split between members of relay teams. Beginning in 2028, winners of silver and bronze medals in track and field will receive prize money in addition to medals. According to the president of World Athletics, Sebastian Coe, the payments reflect the fact that the revenue share received by the governing body of athletics results “in large part” because track and field athletes are “the stars of the show.” The prizes will be funded out of the share of Olympic revenue distributed to World Athletics by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Potential destabilization of power balance

Critics of the prize money plan believe it would cause a power imbalance in the Olympic movement before the Games in Paris. The IOC responded to the prize program by saying it was the choice of each sport’s governing body, in this case, World Athletics, to decide how it would spend its share of Olympic revenues. According to the IOC, it redistributes 90 percent of its total income, particularly to the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and the International Federations (IFs). This means that each IF and NOC can decide the best ways to serve their athletes and the international development of their sport.

Payment policies at the Olympics

While the Olympic Games were originally designated as an amateur sports event with no prize money awarded by the IOC, many medal winners receive payment from the governments of the countries they represent, national sports entities, or sponsors. Coe stated that he was likely part of the last generation to receive a “75-pence meal voucher and second-class rail fare” when competing for his own country. A British runner, Coe won gold medals at the 1980 and 1984 Games in the 1,500-meter event in the period when Olympic track and field was set to accept participation from professional athletes. He noted that things had changed considerably since he competed and acknowledged that competitors face added pressures today.

Current prize-money awards

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee provided $37,500 prizes to the gold medalists at the Tokyo Summer Games in 2021, while the National Olympic Council in Singapore has promised $1 million for a gold-medal win at the Games. Only one competitor from Singapore has received the prize to date. The Olympics are the only venue in which professional tennis and golf athletes compete for free.