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How Much Do Olympic Athletes Get Paid

How much do olympic athletes earn

Olympic athletes are, without a doubt, the crème of the crop as far as sports are concerned. Only the very finest from all over the world get to take part, with people training for years and even decades for a chance to qualify. Whether it is a graceful Winter Olympics figure skater or a Summer Olympics track powerhouse, these sportspeople have undoubtedly earned our respect and reverence.

But, the question on everyone’s mind is this; how much do Olympics athletes get paid? After all the hard work and sacrifice do they have anything to show for it? Or is it back to hustling and grinding after flying their country flags high?

Below are the answers to these questions.


All work, no pay

This might come as a surprise to many, but Olympics athletes do not have a salary. Yes; they do it all for free driven purely by patriotism and paid with cheers and respect from their fellow countrymen.

This might seem unfair considering all that these athletes give up to get that far. However, it has been the status quo in the Olympics scene for decades, and there are no signs that things will be changing any time soon.

The good news is that these athletes are not exactly left high and dry. Most are sponsored by their respective governments and private sponsors to ensure they have all they need to perform. There are also a lucky few among the huge bunch that are fortunate enough to scrap a payday through various avenues. Here is more about how they get taken care of.


What most governments and sponsors offer

More often than not, athletes have their various needs catered for by the governments they are representing.

Others have special sponsorships from private donors to cover any extra costs that local Olympics committees do not cover. These deals cover basic needs before, during and shortly after the games ensuring that the athlete is comfortable and well taken care of.

Below is a list of some of the most commonly covered amenities in this case.


1. Travel expenses to, from and during the games

Sponsors cover includes airline tickets for athletes to travel to and from the hosting countries. They also cover transport around the host venue including to and from the sports fields and arenas. This funding is done indirectly where the athletes don’t get to handle the money.


2. Training expenses before, during and after the games

The training expenses vary from country to country. In some countries, training is done centrally with government-paid coaches handling the country’s leading teams. This, however, is not always the case. Sometimes the athletes have to get their trainers either through self-sponsorship or private donors.


3. Accommodation and food expenses during the games

This comes as a given throughout the entire Olympics period. The athletes get free accommodation with meals and access to different amenities. That way, they have somewhere to call home and food to fuel their hard working bellies as they represent their countries.


4. Miscellaneous stipends during the games

This, again, varies from country to country. The stipends are given sort of an allowance or pocket money.

This is the only time the athletes get to handle money. They can use it for anything from souvenir shopping to treating themselves to fun nights out after their meets.


How Olympians cash in on their sports successes

As earlier stated, there are a lucky few who have found a way to cash in on their Olympics appearances and performances. In this case, there are 3 critical ways through which Olympics athletes can make some money.

  • Private sponsors

The same private sponsors that cater to the athletes’ needs sometimes offer payment as a form of motivation. In this case, the athletes are given actual salaries in addition to the catering services already provided. This became the trend in 1992 after the International Olympics Federations allowed professional athletes to take part in the games.

A great example was the basketball ‘Dream Team’ comprised of professional NBA players paid by both the government and private sponsors to participate. Their remuneration was guaranteed whether or not they won any medals. Since then, many different organizations have invested in training professional athletes whom they pay to participate in the Olympics.

  • Medal and record bonuses

This is the most common way through which Olympics athletes make money. The bonuses are often offered by the athlete’s home countries for motivation and also as a reward for excellent performance. Again, this payout varies a lot as different countries provide different bonuses to their athletes for winning medals or for breaking records.

For the 2016 Olympics games, Singapore had the highest medal bonus offer. Gold medalists from this country would walk away with a whopping 1 million US dollars while bronze medalists were promised 250,000 USD.

That is a lot to look forward to, and it is a great way to appreciate the athletes’ great work.

However, despite these bonuses promising major payouts they are not available to everyone. Think of it this way; during the summer Olympics, there a little under 1000 medals to be awarded and that more than 15000 athletes have to fight for. So, as much as it is a promising payday, there will still be tens of thousands of disappointed athletes going home penniless.

  • Endorsement deals

For the most part, endorsement deals offer the biggest payouts for Olympics athletes. Take the example of snowboarding legend and 2 time Olympics gold medalist Shaun White. As of 2018, he was reported to earn up to 10 million a year from endorsements from brands like Red Bull and Kraft.

This, unfortunately, is yet another payday that is for those special few. It is in a lot of ways like the payment professional players get from private sponsors. The only difference is that endorsement deals are very hard to come by as they require great performance both on and off the field. There is also the fact that these lucky few Olympians are not necessarily paid for their athletic performances during the Olympics, but instead for what they do after the games. In fact, the Olympics serve more like a personal ad for the athlete showing different brands they can offer as ambassadors.


To answer the question finally, Olympics athletes do not get paid; unless of course they are fortunate. For the rest, it is all hard work and no pay. However, the exposure and experience have been described as worth every drop of sweat, every injury and every tear. In a nutshell, they all get something, however little, from participating in these historical events.


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