Monday, May 20, 2024
SportCoe defends World Athletics’ move to award $50,000 to Olympic gold winners

Coe defends World Athletics’ move to award $50,000 to Olympic gold winners

Sebastian Coe has defended World Athletics’ decision to break with 128 years of Olympic tradition by becoming the first sport to give athletes prize money if they are victorious in Paris this summer.

Coe said the surprise move, under which gold medal-winning athletes in each of the sport’s 48 events will walk away with USD 50,000 (£39,360), was merely a reflection that the world has changed and said it was time his sport gave more to its stars.

However, the decision clearly blindsided the International Olympic Committee, which has never awarded money for participating or winning a medal, as it believes that to compete at a Games is reward enough.

Asked whether the announcement would violate the Olympic spirit, Coe was clear. “I don’t think it does,” he replied.

“I came from an era where to compete for the UK, it was a second-class rail ticket, or a 5p per mile allowance, and you went for the one that was the best margin – and a 75p meal voucher,” he added. “My view is that the world has changed. It’s really important that where possible we create a sport that is financially viable for our competitors. This is the beginning of that.”

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While some national federations and sponsors have offered Olympic bonuses for decades, it is the first time since the founding of the modern Games in 1896 that a gold medal will automatically come with a guaranteed monetary prize from a sport’s governing body.

“If I thought athletes were only competing because there was a financial pot at the end of the day, then I might take a very different view – but they are not,” said Coe. “I think this gives them a little bit more skin in the game.”

Coe, who won 1500m gold in 1980 and 1984 before leading London’s 2012 Olympic bid, admitted that he had not spoken to the IOC president, Thomas Bach, before making the decision. However, he said that his chief executive, Jon Ridgeon, had spoken briefly to IOC’s games department.

“I’m not across the conversation,” he said. “But I’m hoping that they would welcome that.”

He said that the USD 2.4 million (GBP 1.9 million) in prize money would come from part of the money World Athletics gets from the IOC every four years to reward athletes.

Between 2017 and 2021, the IOC made USD 7.6 billion in revenues from the Olympic Games. But in a terse statement in response to World Athletics’ decision, the IOC said it pumped nearly all the money it makes back into sports.

“The IOC redistributes 90 percent of all its income, in particular to the National Olympic Committees and International Federations,” it said. “This means that, every day, the equivalent of USD 4.2m goes to help athletes and sports organizations at all levels around the world.

“It is up to each IF and NOC to determine how to best serve their athletes and the global development of their sport.”

(The Guardian)

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