Paris 2024: World Athletics to become first federation to award prize money at Olympic Games

Home » Paris 2024: World Athletics to become first federation to award prize money at Olympic Games

World Athletics has announced it will become the first international federation to award prize money at the Olympic Games.

The global governing body said a total prize pot of $2.4m (£1.9m) has been made available for this summer’s Olympics in Paris, with gold medallists receiving $50,000 (£39,400).

This will be extended to silver and bronze medallists at Los Angeles 2028.

World Athletics president Lord Coe called the decision a “pivotal moment”.

He told BBC Sport the organisation wanted to create a “stable financial landscape” for athletes.

There will be 48 athletics events in Paris, with relay gold medallists to share their prize money among the team.

The prize money will not apply at the Paralympics, which takes place from 28 August to 8 September, as Para-athletics is governed by World Para Athletics.

“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 said.

“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.”

Greg Rutherford, who won gold in the long jump at London 2012, said: “This is a brilliant step in the right direction and I take my hat off to Seb Coe and the rest of the World Athletics staff for initiating this improvement.”

The former British athlete said the view that Olympic sports are still amateur “couldn’t be further from the truth”.

Asked if prize money went against the Olympic spirit, Coe replied: “I don’t see that making life a little easier for the athletes, allowing them maybe to stay on in the sport a little bit longer, to give them the financial independence to train, and maybe in a more sophisticated way is anything other than sitting behind good firm Olympic principles.”

World Athletics said the format and structure of prize money for the 2028 Games will be announced nearer the time.

It added that the payment of prize money will depend on athletes “undergoing and clearing the usual anti-doping procedures”.

Given the Olympics’ origins as an amateur sports event, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) does not award prize money but distributes funding through international federations (IF) and national Olympic committees (NOC).

Some national Olympic committees offer financial rewards to their medallists, though the British Olympic Association does not.

The IOC said: “It is up to each IF and NOC to determine how to best serve their athletes and the global development of their sport.”

‘Athletics has not been a rich sport’

Dame Denise Lewis, won gold in the heptathlon at the 2000 Sydney Olympics for Great Britain, said the announcement is “really positive”, but added athletics “has not been a rich sport”.

“This is nothing to do with ‘the Olympics is supposed to be about valour, about honour and representation of your country’, this is absolutely a gesture from World Athletics to its athletes,” Lewis told BBC 5 Live Drive.

“The Olympics earns billions – as we know, for a lot of people, but the athletes don’t always get that in track and field.”

Lewis, who also took heptathlon bronze at the Atlanta Games in 1996, said prize money would not devalue the achievement of reaching an Olympics, rather it would offer athletes a possible incentive to continue competing.

“And to just give them a little bit of assistance going forward,” she added.

Rutherford, who was also an Olympic bronze medallist in Rio in 2016, said he hopes other sports can adopt the same approach as World Athletics.

“Athletes from around the world sacrifice so much to achieve the most difficult accolade in sport, becoming Olympic champion – standing at the top of the podium and hearing your national anthem is one of the greatest feelings you can have,” he said.

“But, the scrutiny that the athletes are constantly under – along with the comparisons to other sporting success stories – always fail to mention the lack of financial support given.”

The 2015 long jump world champion added: “I really hope the athletes across all sports will now finally be supported by the multi-billion dollar IOC and their efforts, not just by individual sports, for the long-term health of the Olympic movement.

“We do this for the love of the sport, but it is also our livelihood.”

Swedish Olympic pole vault champion Armand Duplantis said World Athletics’ move was a “step in the right direction”.

Meanwhile, Norwegian Olympic 400m hurdle champion Karsten Warholm said the prize money did not change his motivation to win an Olympic gold medal, but he agreed it was the “right direction” for building a professional sport.

However, Jonathan Edwards, GB gold medallist at Sydney 2000 and still the men’s triple jump world record holder, 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'”, said the 57-year-old.

“Athletes who win at the Olympic Games already get rewards.”

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