World Athletics to award Olympic gold medalists cash prizes for the first time

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe.

World Athletics President Sebastian Coe.

Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Money will reward gold medal winners in each of 48 athletics events in Paris.
  • NOC-K Secretary General Francis Mutuku has welcomed the move.

In a historic move, World Athletics will, for the first time, award prize money at the Olympic Games during this year’s Paris Summer Games.

World Athletics will become the first international federation to unveil financial rewards to athletes for achieving the pinnacle of sporting success, with the Paris Games getting the great honour for the noble initiative.

A total prize pot of US$2.4 million (Sh312m) has been ring-fenced from the International Olympic Committee’s revenue share allocation, received by World Athletics every four years. 

The money will reward athletes who win a gold medal in each of the 48 athletics events in Paris with US$50,000 (Sh6.5m).

The World Athletics on Wednesday disclosed that the initiative also includes a firm commitment to extend the prize money at a tiered level to Olympic silver and bronze medal winners at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games.

"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," said World Athletics President Sebastian Coe when sharing details of the decision.

Coe noted that the decision is the continuation of a journey started in 2015, which will see all the money World Athletics receives from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the Olympic Games going directly back into the sport.

Olympic dividend payments

It started with the Olympic dividend payments to World Athletics Member Federations, which saw the athletics governing body distribute an extra US$5m (Sh650m) a year on top of existing grants aimed at athletics growth projects.

“We are now in a position to also fund gold medal performances for athletes in Paris, with a commitment to reward all three medallists at the LA28 Olympic Games,” said Coe. 

While it is impossible to put a value on winning an Olympic medal or on the commitment and the focus it takes to even represent your country at the Olympics, Coe said it was vital to start somewhere.

“We want to 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,” stated Coe.

The payment of prize money will depend upon the World Athletics ratification process, including athletes undergoing and clearing the usual anti-doping procedures. 

Each Olympic champion will receive US$50,000 (Sh6.5m). Relay teams will receive the same amount, shared among the team members. The format and structure of the LA28 Olympic bonuses will be announced later.

The National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) Secretary General Francis Mutuku has welcomed the move by World Athletics, saying it will spur competition to the next level.  

"This is good motivation while the IOC continues with their vision of universality where everyone participating at the Olympics is a winner," said Mutuku.

Mutuku said while the IOC doesn't give prize money, funds raised from their activities are put into their solidarity programmes for coaches, referees and athletes.