Some are awarded cash prizes by their respective local Olympic committees or governments. Also, sometimes private businessmen will match values given, such as in Armenia where a man donated $700,000 to be added to the cash given by the Olympic committee for medals. Another similar thing occurred for Belarus athletes during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Those Belarusians who won any medal in the Olympics that year not only got a cash prize ($100,000 for gold, $50,000 for silver, and $30,000 for bronze), but also were given free meat and sausage for life from a local major meat company, Belatmeat. In the end, though, typically any cash prizes and the decision on whether to award them each Olympics is decided by the local Olympic Committees in each country and generally all the cash for the bonuses comes from these committees.
As to the amounts of these prizes, the United States Olympic Committee awards $25,000 for a gold medal, $15,000 for a silver, and 10,000 for a bronze. Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee eclipses this, paying $250,000 for a gold, such as for the gold medal and world record performance just accomplished by 19 year old Zulfiya Chinshanlo in women’s weightlifting. (She lifted 131 kg or 288 lbs in the clean and jerk competition on the second day of the London Games, a new world record in her event.)
The highest known bonus of any nation is given to gold medalists from Singapore, which awards $800,000 for such an accomplishment. Georgia is the runner up in the known cash bonus pools, awarding $706,000 to Olympic gold medalists from their country.
While exact figures are hard to come by, as many Olympic Committees don’t make the numbers publicly known, some other countries whose athletes are known to receive cash prizes for Olympic medals include:
- Ukraine: $100,000 (gold) / $75,000 (silver) / $50,000 (bronze)
- Canada: $20,000 (gold) / $15,000 (silver) / $10,000 (bronze)
- Kyrgyzstan: $200,000 (gold)
- Uzbekistan: $150,000 (gold)
- Tajikistan: $63,000 (gold)
- Italy: $182,000 (gold)
- France: $65,200 (gold)
- Russia: $135,000 (gold)
- China: $31,400 (gold)
- Germany: $19,500 (gold)
- Ghana: $20,000 (gold)
- Philippines: $237,000 (gold)
- Australia: $20,000 (gold)
- Thailand: $314,000 (gold)
For those British athletes competing in this year’s London Games, they won’t receive anything directly except the medal and getting their face on a stamp, as Great Britain’s Olympic Committee doesn’t give cash prizes.
Of course, Olympic medalists in high profile events, particularly in countries like the U.S. and Great Britain, often can expect to receive sponsorship contracts that eclipse cash bonuses given by any Olympic Committee, so I’m sure they’re not lamenting the fact that they aren’t representing Singapore or Georgia.
- As mentioned, Thailand offers a large prize of $314,000 for Olympic gold medals, but unlike most countries that award it in one lump sum, they award it over a 20 year period in order that the athletes will be able to have a staple income to help support themselves long term.
- One somewhat unique thing about the United States’ cash prizes for Olympic medals is that they are taxed, as are the value of the medals themselves (How Much are Olympic Medals Worth?). Most Olympic medalists from other countries are not similarly taxed for Olympic medal cash prizes, though there are a few other nations that do this. This practice in the United States has very recently been highly publicized by certain politicians jockeying for free press as election time comes near. One such politician, Senator Marco Rubio on August 1, 2012 introduced a bill into congress to exempt Olympic medalists from being taxed on these cash prizes for Olympic medals. As he said, “We can all agree that these Olympians who dedicate their lives to athletic excellence should not be punished when they achieve it.” Of course, few voters would agree that this same line of reasoning would hold for individuals who dedicate their lives to business excellence and eventually reach the top of the business world, or scientists or the like, but the sentiment is nice, and probably very much appreciated by those medalists who medal in lesser celebrated events that don’t bring the sponsorship dollars in. Of course, the Michael Phelps’s of the world probably couldn’t care less about the loss of 35% of their Olympic medal cash prizes. Their loss of 35% of the sponsorship dollars to taxes probably stings a bit though.
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