Here's How Much Olympians Get Paid
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The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing has been going on for about two weeks.
We’ve seen hundreds of medals handed out—Norway currently leads the way with 14 gold medals and 29 total medals—and there have been plenty of controversies.
Many people have complained about the meals being served in quarantine facilities, the IOC made Julia Marino remove the Prada logo from her $3,600 snowboard, and athletes have taken strong offense to the decision that enabled Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva to continue to compete after a positive drug test months prior.
Remember, Russia is still technically banned from the Olympics — their athletes are competing under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee, or ROC for short.
But one of the most interesting conversations each year is athlete pay.
For those that don’t already know, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) does not pay athletes a cent for their appearance in the Olympics. Athletes have their travel, lodging, and food covered, but they are 100% responsible for training costs.
So rather than pay athletes simply for competing in the games, many countries have decided to offer monetary rewards to their athletes for the number of medals they win at either the Summer Olympics or Winter Olympics.
Here’s how much athletes get paid for finishing on the podium:
The prize money varies widely from country to country for many reasons.
Some countries, like Singapore and Kazakhstan, use the money to develop a national sporting culture, while other countries, like the United States and Canada, use it as a (small) monetary reward to incentivize athletic individuals to compete.
The real problem is that very few Olympic athletes (Summer or Winter) have a big enough brand to make a substantial amount of money from endorsements when they aren’t competing.
Sure, you have people like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Shaun White, Chloe Kim, and Simone Biles, but many athletes are still in their early 20s and spent much of their time, money, and effort trying just to make it to the games, meaning it’s nearly impossible to hold down full-time employment also.
And I think the problem only gets worse when you consider how much money the Olympics generates.
For example, in 2014, NBC agreed to a $7.75 billion deal that gave them the right to air the Olympics through the 2032 games. That means they will pay hundreds of millions of dollars to air the games and generate a similar amount of advertising money in return — the athletes don’t see any of that.
And this doees’t even include the political jockeying and billions of dollars that countries throw around just to have the opportunity to host the games.
Now, there is some nuance to this, of course. For example, some countries, like the United States, offer athletes compensation outside of just money, including health insurance, college tuition assistance, and access to top-tier training and medical facilities.
Still, as we move into a world where social and monetary issues continue to gain global attention, I think it’s probably only a matter of time before this changes.
Have a great day, and we’ll talk tomorrow.
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