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How Much Do Olympians Make? Bonuses, Sponsorships and More

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How much do Olympians make? This is a question you’ve probably asked yourself, considering the amount of money the event generates. For example, between 2017 and 2020, the Olympics made $7.6 billion

Representing your country in this global spectacle is a dream for many athletes. This year, those who qualify get that chance at the Paris Olympics. It’ll be the first Olympic Games to pay athletes since it started over 2,700 years ago.   

In this post, I explore how Olympians make money.

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How Much Do Olympic Athletes Get Paid?

For most of its existence, the Olympics were reserved for amateurs to maintain the competitiveness of the games. Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin, regarded as the father of the Olympics, vouched for amateurism, meaning that athletes weren’t remunerated.

Athletes receiving money weren’t allowed to participate in the games. Jim Thorpe is the quintessential example. He lost his gold medals after information emerged that he was a paid baseball player two years before the Olympics. 

Some people weren’t pleased by the decision and stood by Thorpe. The American left amateur sports and turned pro. He’s believed to be an influence in the professionalization of sports. 30 years after his medals were revoked, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reinstated them. 

However, the conversation didn’t end there. In the 1970s, television’s influence on sports set in and the Soviet Union was accused of funding its athletes. This forced the IOC to lean towards professional sports. 

They revoked age restrictions and allowed every national Olympic Committee to decide on its enforcement. The 1992 Barcelona Games was a defining moment. The United States presented a professional basketball team led by Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewings and Charles Barkley, dubbed the Dream Team, exploiting the relaxed amateur rules. It was the American Olympic team to have active professional players and improved the NBA’s rating.

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Is the Winter Olympics Games Different?

The Summer Olympic Games is more popular than the Winter Olympic Games. However, the IOC organizes both and also had stringent rules around amateurism but has evolved to allow professional athletes. 

That noted, the National Hockey League (NHL) owners have difficulty allowing their players to attend the games. They have to cancel the season to allow them to represent their countries which costs them. Hence, their attendance depends on money, schedule and owner’s will.

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Does the IOC Pay Olympians?

How Much Do Olympians Make? Video Credit: The Richest

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) doesn’t pay athletes. However, they can earn through stipends, bonuses and endorsement deals. You might ask yourself, what happens with the money the sport generates?

The IOC is a non-profit organization, so the revenues made go back into the sport. 90% goes to sport and development and about 50% to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) among other programs. 

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Olympic Medal Bonus

Because the IOC doesn’t pay salaries or bonuses to competing athletes, individual countries award their performing athletes with medal bonuses. They also receive money through other parties. 

According to Money Under 30, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) gives $37,500 to American gold medal winners. The silver medalist banks $22,500 and the bronze medal winner cashes in $15,000. These earnings are 100% tax-free but those who make more than $1 million are subject to tax.

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Other Countries Medal Bonuses

Other nations offer bigger medal bonuses than what American athletes get. According to Money Under 30, Singapore gives its gold medal winner about $750,000, the silver medalist earns $369,000 and a bronze gets $184,000. 

Kazakhstan and Malaysia rank second and third with the highest Olympic medal bonuses. The former gives $250,000 for gold, $150,000 for silver and $75,000 for bronze. Malaysia offers $236,000 for gold, $71,000 for silver and $24,000 for bronze.

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Here’s a full table 

CountriesGold SilverBronze
The Philippines$200,000$99,000$40,000
South Africa$37,000$19,000$7,000
Source: Money Under 30

What About Athletes Who Don’t Win Medals?

Difficulties Olympians face. Video Credit: Grunge

Many athletes at the Olympics don’t win a medal but still have the pride of representing their countries in the games. How much do they make? 

According to Sports Management Degree Hub, American athletes who finish in the top 10 without a medal earn less than $15,000 annually. Those who rank between 11th and 25th position get less than $10,000 to $60,000.

How Much Do Olympians Make From Sponsors?

Athletes with high profiles generate more money through their image and likeness via sponsorship deals. Although the deals are announced, the figures involved are rarely publicized. However, news reports provide rough estimates. 

CNBC reports that in 2013, former Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt earned about $10 million from his deal with Puma. One of America’s greatest swimmers, Katie Ledecky’s deal with swimwear brand TYR, reportedly stood at $7 million. 

College athletes who compete at the Olympics can also earn thanks to the Supreme Court decision on the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) compensation saga.

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World Athletics to Pay Athletes at Paris Olympics

In an unprecedented move, the athletics governing body will pay athletes for the first time in its history. World Athletics President Sebastian Coe says it wants to give them a share of the revenue they generate. He also states that times are changing and they have to keep up.

It’s set aside $2.4 million for 48 men, women and mixed-race events for Olympic gold medalists at the Paris with each gold medalist getting $50,000. The relay team will divide the amount among themselves. Silver and bronze medalists will start receiving payments in the Summer 2028 Olympics.

The President of the IOC Thomas Bach isn’t pleased with Coe’s move. He maintains that federations should focus more on developing grassroots sports than on awarding gold medalists. 

How much do Olympians make? The professionalization of sports allows athletes to earn through different means, such as bonuses and endorsements. World Athletics’ decision to give prize money to athletes is a game changer and who knows, perhaps it’s a matter of time before other disciplines ask the IOC to change its policies. 

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