World Athletics first to announce prize money at Paris Olympics, IOC has no issues

Olympic body says it's up to each International Federation and National Olympic Committee to determine how to serve their athletes
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe
World Athletics President Sebastian Coe

CHENNAI: In a break from 128-year-old Olympic tradition, the World Athletics (WA) has announced prize money for gold medal winners at the Paris Olympics. This was announced by Sebastian Coe, president of WA, on Wednesday. This will be the first time any International Federation (IF) has announced prize money at the Olympics.

Responding to a query by The New Indian Express, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said its funds can be utilised by each IF or National Olympic Committee to best serve the athletes as they want.

"The IOC redistributes 90 per cent of all its income, in particular to the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and International Federations (IFs). This means that, every day, the equivalent of $4.2 million goes to help athletes and sports organisations at all levels around the world. It is up to each IF and NOC to determine how to best serve their athletes and the global development of their sport," the IOC said.

The WA also shared similar ways of meeting the funding. The WA said in a statement that "a total prize pot of US$2.4 million has been ring fenced from the International Olympic Committee's revenue share allocation, which is received by World Athletics every four years. This will be used to reward athletes who win a gold medal in each of the 48 athletics events in Paris with US$50,000." The relay teams will get the same amount that will be divided among the members of the team.

Coe said that it is an initiative that had to be made. "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," he said.

WA vice president Adille Sumariwalla, who was part of the discussions, said everyone at the organisation was keen on this fresh initiative.

He felt it is a natural process to support the athletes, who make the sport possible. "The athletes are the stars of the event and all they take home is a medal," said Sumariwalla, who is also the chief of Athletics Federation of India. "So they should be compensated as much as possible. We had deliberations during our meetings and thought this to be the right move. With limited resources, we thought let's make a start."

Sumariwalla also said that if the athletes are getting money at Diamond League and other championships like the Worlds, they can be awarded at the Olympics as well. For now, the plan is to include only gold medallists at Paris. "As our finances get healthier, we would want to extend it to more winners," he said. "The athletes are the centrepiece. We should embrace them and their performances." Sumariwalla also said that there should be no problem for the IOC because it's a positive move.

"While it is impossible to put a marketable value on winning an Olympic medal, or on the commitment and focus it takes to even represent your country at an Olympic Games, I think it is important we start somewhere and 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," WA chief Coe said on the website.

The amateur tag of athletes has been blurred after endorsement and advertising money coming into sport and also after the IOC allowed professional players to compete in Olympics in sport like tennis, basketball and football.

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