World Athletics Ignites Controversy With Cash Reward Declaration for Olympic Athletes

In a revolutionary step, World Athletics has announced that it will award a cash prize of $50,000 to Olympic gold medal winners in its events. It’s the first governing body to issue financial rewards for Olympic prizes in history.

Intention to Reward Success Announced

In a press release on their website, World Athletics said: “World Athletics has announced it will become the first international federation to award prize money at an Olympic Games, financially rewarding athletes for achieving the pinnacle of sporting success, starting at this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris.”

The initial prize pot for the Paris 2024 games is $2.4m, which equates to $50,000 per gold medal across the 48 World Athletics events. The cash is from the International Olympic Committee’s revenue share allocation, which is given to help support Olympic events.

Commitment to Increasing Prize Distribution

World Athletics have committed to increasing the prize distribution in time for the 2028 LA Olympics. It is hoped silver and bronze medallists will also be financially rewarded by then.

It’s important to point out that the money is only available to athletics competitors at present. For the prize money to reach other sports, their governing bodies would have to decide to reward successful athletes.

World Athletics President, Lord Coe, on the Decision

“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”

He went on to say, “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.”

Money Not an Olympic Prize

There has already been some confusion on social media, where people have asked why it’s not available to all sports. It technically is, but their governing bodies have decided to use their share of the revenue share allocation differently.

Whilst in previous eras, the Olympics was a strictly amateur event, there has been a steady relaxation of the rules for decades. In the 1990’s, the amateur rules were essentially abandoned, with wrestling being an exception (professional wrestling is a staged event).

Given most athletes at the Olympics are full-time and funded by national governing bodies, it has begged the question of whether or not cash is actually needed by the athletes. The answer is a matter of opinion – some say the medals are incentive enough.

High Profile Criticism of the Decision

Jonathan Edwards, GB gold medallist at Sydney 2000 men’s triple jump world record holder,  said the decision is “a little bit odd”.

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

Fatima Whitbread Said Money “Could Be Better Used”

In an interview, the former World Champion Javelin thrower said that the money “could be better used to support the grass roots of the sport.” World Athletics has already invested over $50 million in this area.

Despite some criticism, the decision has been generally well-received by both current and former athletes. Many athletes are given funding from UK athletics, but that can be a small amount of money.

World Athletics has also stated that the money to winners will be rewarded following the athlete “undergoing and clearing the usual anti-doping procedures”.

Understanding Athlete Funding

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) distributes funding through the International Federation (IF) and National Olympic Committees (NOC). They can then decide how they remunerate and support athletes.

The BOA doesn’t offer prize money to athletes, regardless of success in the games or world championships. The athletes in the UK are funded by lottery funding, distributed via UK Sport.

Athletes with a higher chance of medal performances receive the highest funding levels. They can then supplement this income with sponsorship deals and private income. Some sports also offer prize money in events. 

Financial Support Helps Athletes

Given that the amateur status of the games is a thing of the past, why not reward the athletes who have worked so hard to achieve greatness in their sport? It will help keep the best athletes competing and pushing boundaries for longer.

The Olympic Games generates billions in revenue, so rewarding the athletes who make the event what it is seems a good use of the cash. We expect actors, musicians, dancers and other performers to earn a slice, so why not athletes?

World Athletics has made the first move here, but don’t be surprised if you see other sports doing a similar thing in the coming Olympic cycles.

The post World Athletics Sparks Debate With Cash Prize Announcement for Olympians first appeared on Swift Feed.

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