Kokua Line

June Watanabe

Athens medals bring
fortune, not just fame

Question: We understand that all Olympic medal winners receive compensation. We appreciate if you will provide us the amount for each category (gold, silver and bronze).

Answer: The jackpots depend on the country, not to mention whatever commercial endorsements the winning athletes are able to score afterward.

For American athletes, the U.S. Olympic Committee offered cash "bonuses" to those who made it up to the winners' podium at the recent Athens games.

Each gold medalist will receive $25,000 from the USOC; each silver medalist, $15,000; and each bronze medalist, $10,000, the USOC told "Kokua Line."

It doesn't matter if the medal was won in an individual event or as part of a team effort.

Each member of the women's gold-medal soccer and gymnastics teams, for example, will receive $25,000.

In addition to the USOC money, some individual sports organizations also offered monetary rewards to their athletes. USA Swimming, for example, put up $50,000 for gold, $25,000 for silver and $12,500 for bronze, according to a spokeswoman for that organization.

But those amounts are divided among relay participants, including those who swam in the preliminary heats, she told us.

So, if four swimmers swam in the preliminaries to qualify for the finals and four different swimmers showed up for the finals, eight swimmers could split the spoils of ending up first, second or third. But that usually doesn't happen.

By our calculations, that means Michael Phelps, who dominated men's swimming in Athens with a total of six gold medals (two in relays) and two bronze medals (one in a relay), hauled in at least $396,562 -- $150,000 for the six golds and $20,000 for the two bronzes from the USOC, plus $200,000 from USA Swimming for the four individual gold medals, $12,500 for the individual bronze and at least $26,562 for the three relays if eight swimmers swam in the preliminaries and finals of each race.

There weren't eight different swimmers in each relay event (but we're not sure who swam what), so Phelps definitely received more than $26,562 as his share.

The bonus payments from the U.S. organizations aren't out of line compared with what some countries were offering their gold-medal Olympians, being far less in some cases.

Singapore, for example, was offering the equivalent of nearly $600,000 for a gold medal, but that incentive didn't produce a winner.

China, which won 63 medals, just behind the United States (103) and Russia (91), offered the equivalent of $24,000 for gold, $18,000 for silver and $12,000 for bronze, but additional bonuses from other government agencies could sweeten the pot by hundreds of thousands of dollars more for many gold medalists.

Russia, meanwhile, promised $50,000 for gold medals, $20,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze.

Additionally, each gold medalist in an individual event was to get $100,000, while those on winning teams would receive $60,000 each.

If a Russian set a world record, that would be another $40,000.


See the Columnists section for some past articles.

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