- Some countries offer a lot of money to athletes who win at the Winter Games.
- Hong Kong offers over half a million prize money.
- Turkey hands out real gold awards, but has never won a medal at the Winter Games.
Winning at the Beijing Olympics can mean a lot of money for some athletes.
In addition to sponsorship deals and potentially lucrative sponsorships, 32 of the 91 countries competing at the Beijing Winter Olympics also offer financial rewards to Olympians who win a medal, according to Forbes,
While some big-name Olympians, like Shaun White and Eileen Gu, have turned their athletic skills into huge payouts and lucrative endorsements, many Olympians toil for years without ever receiving a big financial payday.
A 2020 survey of around 500 elite athletes in 48 countries by advocacy group Global Athlete showed that 60% of them did not consider themselves financially stable. For many of these athletes, the financial rewards offered by these countries are a life-changing benefit of participating in the Games.
Such was the case with Singaporean swimmer Joseph Schooling in 2016 when he received S$1 million ($742,000) in prize money after beating Michael Phelps in the 100-meter butterfly to win the country’s first gold medal in the Olympic history. His father told My Paper from Singapore that the money would be used to repay loans taken out to pay for the athlete’s training and education.
But while Singapore offers the biggest payout for a gold medal, the Southeast Asian country has no athletes competing at the Beijing Winter Games.
Here are the five other countries that pay the most to win at the Winter Olympics.
1. Hong Kong offers $641,000 to athletes who win gold
Hong Kong encourages competition by awarding athletes who place in the top eight in any Olympic competition a financial prize, starting at $40,000 (HK$312,500) for 8th place and going up to 641,000 $ (5 million HK dollars) for athletes who achieve gold.
Cash donations under the government’s athlete awards program are sponsored by Henderson Land Group, which says it wants to “encourage Hong Kong athletes to achieve outstanding results”.
Hong Kong has never won a medal at the Winter Olympics, but this year could break the streak. The city-state sent three athletes to the Beijing Winter Games: two alpine skiers and a short-track speed skater.
2. Turkey distributes real solid gold
Turkey distributes 22-karat gold coins to athletes who win a gold medal, according to a 2010 Turkish government decree. Each coin is worth about $383,000, and athletes who set an Olympic record will pocket an additional $190,000 .
That’s way more than the value of a real Olympic gold medal, which is gold-plated silver. Based on the spot prices of gold and silver, gold coins are worth about $750 in current commodity cost.
Turkey sent seven athletes to Beijing. He has never won a medal at any Winter Games, according to the International Olympic Committee.
3. Malaysia distributes $239,000 to each gold medalist
Malaysia will offer 1 million Malaysian ringgits ($239,000) to athletes who win gold as part of its Sports Victory Award incentive program, which was designed to “thank current athletes for giving back the country famous for its outstanding achievements in international games and tournaments”.
That’s a staggering figure, considering Malaysia’s average annual income is just RM70,476 ($16,818), according to the country’s Department of Statistics.
He sent two alpine skiers to Beijing – Aruwin Salehhuddin and Jeffrey Webb. Salehhuddin ended his competitions without winning a medal, and Webb will compete on Wednesday.
The country has never won a medal at the Winter Games, according to a medal tally by the Olympic Council of Malaysia.
4. Italy pays $206,000 for each gold medal won
Italy is handing out 180,000 euros ($206,000) for each gold medal it wins, according to news outlet Eurosport.
The European nation won two gold medals at the Beijing Games, in mixed doubles curling and women’s short track speed skating over 500 meters.
Italy won 10 gold medals out of a total of 40 at the Tokyo Olympics last year and paid more than $9 million to the winning athletes, according to Forbes.
5. Cyprus offers $168,000 per gold medal but has never won a Winter Games medal
The Cyprus Sports Organization awards approximately $168,000 for each gold medal won by its team.
The Mediterranean nation has only sent one athlete to the Games this year: alpine skier Yianno Kouyoumdjian.
She has never won a medal at the Winter Games, according to the IOC.