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Rio 2016: How much money do Olympians make by winning a medal for their country?

It's not just pride and a sense of achievement; the Olympians also get paid by their federations for winning medals.

News 14 Aug 2016, 00:48 IST

The Olympics. As an athlete, you train your whole life to compete in these games. All those hard hours of training and exhaustion come down to the moment you step foot into that stadium as a proud representative of your country, an Olympian on the grandest sporting stage in the world.

Every event in the Olympics consists of the best athletes in the world and global sporting superstars competing or vying for the honor of getting a medal for their country. If you manage to win a medal on the grandest stage by defeating your rivals, you are in rarefied air.

So what’s in it for the athletes? The pride and glory of winning a medal for your country and seeing your nation’s flag rise to your name in the sporting gala is good enough motivation, and perhaps makes all the hard work worth it in the end.

But do they get any monetary rewards by the Olympic organizers? The short answer: No. There is no prize money at the Olympic Games, and the medals are the only tangible thing that the winners take home with them.

How do their countries reward them, though? Not all countries reward their medalists equally, and you will be surprised to know the countries who reward their Olympians the best.

But before we get into the discussion of how much the athletes get paid for their medals, let’s see the value of the medal itself at the ongoing Rio Olympic Games 2016.

Value of Summer Olympics Medals:

Gold: $600 (The gold medal consists of just 1% of actual gold, 92.5% silver, and 6.16% copper).

Silver: $325 (The silver medal consists of 92.5% silver and 7.2% copper)

Bronze: $3 (Bronze medal is 97% copper and 2.5% zinc and 0.5% tin)

Did you know the Olympic Medals are taxable?

That’s right. Athletes are taxed on the medals they win in the Olympics. The hard work, the lack of money and funding from their federation notwithstanding, athletes actually need to pay taxes as applicable on the medals, if they win in the Olympics. 

Michael Phelps must be secretly wishing he does not win anymore medals to avoid even higher taxes

For each Olympic medal an athlete wins, he or she is usually rewarded by the country with a lot of money. Here is a bit of information about the money different countries pay their athletes.

Highest cash rewards paid by different national Olympic federations


1Singapore1,000,000 Singapore Dollars (USD 734,000)$367,000$183,500
2MalaysiaA solid gold bar worth $600,000$255,000$130,000
5Thailand$314,000 (over 20 years period)  
6Philippines$237,000 (over 20 years period)  
18USA $25,000  
19Germany $19,500  
20United KingdomNo cash prize awarded by Britain’s Olympic Committee.  

As you can see from the above table, countries like Singapore and Malaysia award their athletes a fortune if they win at the Olympics. But it’s pretty surprising to see some of the top dogs of international sports like USA, China, Germany languishing down in the list and UK not rewarding their athletes at all. 

Joseph Schooling
Singapore’s Joseph Schooling just bagged a 1 million Singapore dollars after he defeated Phelps in the 100m butterfly event

But perhaps the situation can be put into better perspective when you consider that the respective federations do in fact put in a lot of effort to make sure their athletes are in top shape for the event. They provide the necessary facilities, coaching, and infrastructure to accommodate their growth in their respective sports, which some of the countries higher in the list cannot afford.

Irrespective of the amount of prize money, it's pretty clear that most athletes do not manage to earn as much as they should do for the amount of effort they put in. Which is why they sometimes have to rely on sponsorship deals, advertisements or even other part-time professions to accommodate their training.

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