Track and Field Athletes To Receive Prize Money At 2024 Olympics

Track & field is the first sport to offer prize money at the Olympic Games - World Athletics will pay each gold medallist $50,000 in Paris

On April 10, 1896, Greece’s Spyridon Louis won the inaugural Olympic marathon, a 25-mile race retracing Pheidippides’ legendary path from Marathon to Athens. Five days later, Louis — like every champion from those 1896 Games — was awarded a diploma, a silver medal, and an olive branch cut from a tree in Olympia.

The International Olympic Committee switched to gold medals for its champions in 1904, but one thing remained constant for the first 32 Olympiads, all the way through Tokyo in 2021: no prize money. That will change in 2024 for track and field athletes. Earlier today — 128 years to the day after Louis’ marathon victory in Athens — World Athletics announced it will pay $50,000 to every track & field gold medalist at this summer’s Olympics in Paris (relay teams will split the money). World Athletics also committed to paying all three medalists at the 2028 Games in Los Angeles, with a specific prize structure to come.

The Olympic Games began as an amateur event and remained that way for much of its existence until giving way to professionals in the 1980s and 1990s. Yet despite pulling in $3.1 billion in broadcast revenue for its most recent edition, it had never paid prize money to its athletes.

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The IOC pays out some of that revenue to each sport’s governing body, with World Athletics receiving roughly $40 million for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. World Athletics president Seb Coe said that $2.4 million of that money will now be used to pay gold medalists in each of track & field’s 48 Olympic events.

“I want to recognize that the athletes play a crucial role in attracting the billions of people that watch an Olympic Games,” said Coe, who won 1500m gold at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics. “We wanted to start somewhere. Today is that starting point.”

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The World Athletics Championships, which, unlike the Olympics, are organized by World Athletics, features a significantly higher prize purse. For the 2023 edition in Budapest, there was a total of $8.5 million, ranging for $70,000 for gold medalists down to $5,000 for eighth place.

While the IOC still does not pay prize money directly, some national Olympic committees offer prize money to gold medalists — the USOPC paid American gold medalists $37,500 for Tokyo 2021. Most track & field contracts include a hefty bonus for Olympic gold, and the achievement can lead to speaking gigs and marketing deals down the road.

“I don’t think it’s possible to financially put a monetary value on an Olympic title,” Coe said. “Off the back of that, athletes will receive financial support – sometimes from governments, sometimes from national Olympic committees, maybe even from their own federation or a commercial range of partners that may come to the table or may be at the table and continue at the table. This wasn’t to overshadow those efforts, it was just to reflect that the contribution they make is profound.”

Talk about this development on the LRC fan forum / messageboard. MB: Paris Olympics to feature prize money for track and field gold medalists, paid by athletics governing body.

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