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The Different Prizes Olympic Champs Can Win—Depending on Their Country and Sport

7 minute read

As thousands of Olympic athletes vie for a place on the podium in Paris, some who finish on top will be going home with more than just gold.

While the Olympics rewards its champions with immense glory and a place in sporting history, traditionally absent are the flashy giant checks that other competitions hand out.

Collage of athletes holding giant cheques after winning tournaments.
Athletes often receive cash for winning sporting competitions around the world. Getty Images

But that doesn’t mean Olympic medalists won’t make any money.

While the International Olympic Committee (IOC) does not monetarily award winners, it does not stop national governments or organizations, or sports federations, from incentivizing athletes with cash or other prizes. And this year, some federations have made the groundbreaking decision to do just that at the Paris Games. 

World Athletics, the international governing body for track and field, announced in April that Olympic gold medalists in track and field events will receive a reward of $50,000—the first of its kind for a sports federation. And in May, the International Boxing Association—which was stripped of recognition by the IOC last year due to financial and governance concerns—said it would offer $100,000 to boxing gold medalists, “setting a clear example for many on how international federations should be treating their champions.”

The announcements have proven controversial. Other federations have claimed such a move “undermines the values of Olympism” and is unfair to sports that can’t afford to offer prize money. The IOC has argued that the federations should be focusing on reducing inequality within their sport instead of elevating their winners. Meanwhile, sporting bodies and athletes have defended the merits of rewarding the best performers—who drive publicity and revenue for the Olympics and for their respective sports—and have called for more money to be passed to the winners across all the Olympic events.

Your Guide to the Paris Olympics

“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,” said World Athletics president Sebastian Coe in April, “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.”

Aside from the select federations that will pay their champions, some countries also bestow bonuses on those who bring home medals—though the prizes on offer can differ greatly. Here are some rewards Olympic winners can reap:


In what may well be the single largest payout for an Olympic medal, Saudi authorities awarded karate athlete Tareg Hamedi 5 million riyal (about $1.33 million) after he narrowly missed the gold—settling for silver after being disqualified over an illegal kick—at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. 

Other wealthy gulf states like Bahrain and Qatar, which have a history of poaching foreign athletes with lucrative deals, are also known for offering hefty rewards in exchange for sporting medals. In 2005, Qatar famously offered top South African swimmer Roland Schoeman a multimillion-dollar contract, including a one million rand (over $50,000) bonus for every Olympic medal or world title won—though Schoeman ultimately rejected the offer.

Hong Kong’s gold medalists, if there are any, at the Paris Olympics will get among the largest cash reward on offer: HK$6 million (over $750,000), as part of the city’s Athlete Incentive Awards Scheme, sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the city’s official betting organizer.

Similarly, Singapore, through its Major Games Award Programme that’s largely sponsored by the national lottery board, offers S$1 million (over $700,000) for individual winners, S$1.5 million for winners of team events (like athletics relays or tennis doubles), and S$2 million for winners of team sports (like basketball or soccer). It also gives 50% of the aforementioned amounts to silver medalists and 25% to bronze medalists. So far, however, only one Singaporean has ever managed to claim the top prize: swimmer Joseph Schooling, who became the city-state’s first and only gold medalist after winning the 100 meter butterfly at the Rio 2016 Olympics. 

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Olympic gold medalists, under a government medal program, receive NT$20 million (over $600,000) and a lifetime monthly stipend of NT$125,000 (about $4,000).

Other governments that have offered (or pledged to offer) their Olympic champions six-figure cash rewards include: Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Morocco, Italy, the Philippines, Hungary, Kosovo, Estonia, and Egypt

In some cases, athletes get rewards from both their governments and national sports organizations. The Indian government offers Olympic gold medalists 7.5 million rupees (about $90,000), while the Indian Olympic Association separately rewards them with 10 million rupees (about $120,000). 

Under the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee committee’s Operation Gold program, Olympic gold medalists receive $37,500, while silver and bronze medalists receive $22,500 and $15,000, respectively. National sports organizations also have their own programs to reward athletes, with USA Wrestling’s Living The Dream Medal Fund offering $250,000 for Olympic gold medals and USA Swimming offering $75,000 for the same.

Cars, houses, even cows

In some countries, often in addition to cash, lavish rewards are bequeathed upon winning athletes, from luxury cars to apartments. 

Malaysian authorities have promised their athletes foreign-made cars if they bring home medals from Paris, while in Kazakhstan, Olympic winners are legally entitled to apartments—the size of which will differ according to their medal color.

After Chinese sport shooter Yi Siling won gold in the air rifle event at the London 2012 Olympics, authorities of Guangdong province, where she resided, reportedly gave her a cash reward of 7.65 million yuan (over $1 million), along with a car worth $30,000 and custom made alcohol. Other Chinese athletes, according to local media, have received expensive new homes from real estate companies.

When Indonesian badminton gold medalists Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu returned home after the Tokyo Olympics, besides the cash reward from the Indonesian government, local authorities and entrepreneurs also showered the pair with gifts including cows, a house, and even their own meatball restaurant.

Austria’s Olympic gold medalists, meanwhile, have previously received €17,000 (over $18,000) worth of Philharmonic coins, a popular bullion coin named after the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra.

In Russia, Olympic champions are typically given 4 million rubles ($45,300), along with expensive foreign cars, apartments, honorary titles, and lifetime stipends. Victory at the Olympics also often translates to more immaterial forms of success, with many high-profile athletes—such as wrestler Aleksandr Karelin, figure skater Irina Rodnina, and gymnast Svetlana Khorkina—embarking on careers in politics after retiring from sports. 

“In our country, success at the Olympics is a direct path to the State Duma and power,” reads a 2016 article in Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.

In some cases, just qualifying for the Olympics is enough cause for compensation: the Iraqi soccer team and weightlifter Ali Ammar Yasser received plots of land, monthly stipends, and a reward of 10 million Iraqi dinars (over $7,000) each after securing their spots in Paris. 

Nothing—besides pride

The U.K., along with countries like Norway and Sweden, does not offer any cash reward to its Olympic medalists.

While some athletes have made clear that they think they should be paid, others think it’s unnecessary.

“All those gold medalists in athletics are capable of earning significant money before and certainly after Paris,” British Olympic champion rower Sir Steve Redgrave told BBC after the news of World Athletics offering cash to winners, “so you’re giving money to people who already have it.”

Meanwhile, Norwegian Olympic champion hurdler Karsten Warholm, who applauded World Athletics for its move, emphasized that the value of victory in the Olympics is often more profound than any pecuniary prize: “It doesn’t change my motivation to win because for the Olympics I’m not in it for the money,” he told Reuters. “The gold medal is worth a lot more to me personally.”

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