Which Countries Award the Highest Olympic Medal Bonus?
For many of the world’s top athletes, simply representing their country at the Olympic Games is considered an honor.
The International Olympics Committee (IOC) partly reinforces this, as it doesn’t pay its participating sportspeople anything.
But for those athletes going for the gold, silver, and bronze, the sweet sense of achievement that comes with winning a medal is sometimes accompanied by a big check—though these prizes don’t come from the IOC either.
The Winners Take It All
For placing at the podium and bringing home a medal, some countries promise their athletes significant bonuses—shooting as high as a six-figure range. For winning a gold medal, athletes from Singapore can earn up to SGD$1 million, or about $737,000.
This reward is nearly 20 times the $37,500 that U.S. athletes pocket for the same achievement. However, the immense difference in payout makes sense if you consider what’s at stake. The U.S. typically dominates the leaderboard every year, and sheer numbers are a big part of this.
At Tokyo 2020, Singapore only had 23 athletes representing the city-state across 12 events. In comparison, the U.S. brought along the biggest contingent of 657 athletes participating in 44 events.
Here are the 12 countries that boast largest monetary bonuses per medal:
|🇵🇭 The Philippines||$200,000||$99,000||$40,000|
|🇿🇦 South Africa||$37,000||$19,000||$7,000|
Correction: Another country that recently announced it would pay its athletes handsomely is Indonesia—a 5 billion rupiah cash reward translates into $349,000 for winning gold.
In several of these countries, these USD-value wins translate to even higher earnings back home. For example, $1 is equivalent to nearly 425 Kazakhstani tenge, or about 50.5 Philippine pesos.
Hidilyn Diaz of The Philippines won her country’s first ever gold medal at Tokyo 2020, in the women’s 55kg weightlifting category. At Rio 2016, she also historically broke a 20-year dry spell for the nation and won a silver medal.
Another way that athletes can gain value from winning a medal is by scoring endorsements with major brands. Often, these deal amounts far surpass any medal bonus—U.S. gymnast Simon Biles earns at least $5 million annually from sponsorships alone.
Some Strings Attached
Why do countries award such big medal bonuses? When a country’s athletics are not driven by the private sector, and instead funded by the government, these monetary rewards help to encourage a stronger sports culture.
In addition, the prize money is taxable in many cases—reinvesting the money into respective countries’ sports associations, and effectively giving back to the community.