It is certainly satisfying to earn an Olympic medal representing your country in the Olympic games, winter or summer, but if there was a nice check waiting in your mailbox when you got home, wouldn’t that make it even better? Around the world, various countries give a bonus per medal, generally at a fixed rate for all of its Olympic athletes, including the United States. In the U.S., this is particularly nice for athletes who scrimp and save while training as the United States does not, as a rule, pay its athletes to train as other countries do. But of the countries represented in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, the United States is closer to the bottom of the scale in terms of what it pays athletes per gold medal, but truth be told, some of the countries at the top of the chart, like Singapore, for example, which offers $753K for a gold medal, has never had to pay out a dime.
So in a conversation about what an Olympic 2016 gold medal is really worth, one has to discuss more than metallurgy when coming to a dollar amount. The Olympic medals for the 2016 Rio games are smaller in size and weight than the medals given out at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, so that is trending lower, but that would be if you were just thinking about scrap metal. For now, at an auction house, an Olympic Gold Medal goes for $10K, a Silver, $8K, and a Bronze, $5k. That is assuming the medal does not belong to a household name. A Michael Phelps Olympic Gold Medal would go for far more at an auction house. One of Jesse Owens’ Gold Medals went for $1.47 million in 2013.
According to Forbes, the United States tops the medal list, but are third to China and Russia when it comes to bonus payouts. At present, for the 2016 Rio Olympics, the United States is paying $25k for Gold, $15k for Silver, and $10k for Bronze, which is well below the bonuses handed out by China, Russia, and Italy. But truth be told, America is doing a bulk business in the current 2016 Summer Olympics. For the 2012 London Olympics, the U.S. paid out on 104 medals, 46 of which were Gold.
And when the U.S. Olympic Committee says per medal, they mean it. For example, if the U.S. Olympics Men’s Basketball Team wins gold, that is $25k for each member of the team, which means in total, the United States paid out on 147 Gold Medals for the 2012 London Olympics.
But for the 2012 London Olympics, Russia paid out the most, as they gave their athletes $135k per Gold Medal, and the total amount they paid out is $12.7 million. Kazakhstan pays out $250k per Gold medal, but they only had to pay out on seven medals, meaning that the country was only out $1.75 million.
But don’t start feeling sorry for the American athletes just yet, as Great Britain does not pay out a dime to their athletes for Olympic achievement, and that includes an Olympic Gold Medal. If you are a British athlete, your honor is perhaps being chosen to be on a postage stamp. But aside from the official Olympic Committees of each country, there are other organizations which offer prizes to medal-winning athletes, including the American Soccer Federation and Swimming Australia, just to name two.
Marketwatch reports that in addition to the honor and glory that comes from winning an Olympic Medal, an athlete might expect quite a financial payday when returning home, but that all depends on which country you represent. Though Singapore is at the top of the heap, paying out over $700k for a Gold Medal, Singapore has never won Gold, and they don’t pay out for the other medals. In fact, Singapore has only won a total of four Olympic medals since they first competed in the Olympic games in 1948, and three out of the four medals were for Table Tennis.
“In contrast, the U.S. has won 1,071 gold medals and 2,698 total medals since the 1896 games in Athens — the kickoff of the Olympics’ modern era — not including the medals won in Rio, where the likes of Goldman Sachs and PricewaterhouseCoopers have forecast the U.S. will garner more than 100 medals.”
Most of the top athletes around the world, and especially in the United States, can look forward to lucrative endorsement deals that make the medal payout look like chump change, but it’s a rare Eastern European athlete who can count on International endorsements from the big guys like Nike, Underarmour, Coke, or Pepsi.
Do you think all countries should offer a cash prize to its Olympic athletes?
[Photo by Lee Jin-Man/AP Images]