© Copyright – 2024 – Athletics Illustrated

Last week World Athletics president Sebastion Coe announced that for the first time in Olympic history, gold medallists will earn money, $50,000 (£39,400). During the 2028 Los Angeles Games, the prizing will expand to silver and bronze. Some people are not happy about it.

Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) president David Lappartient doesn’t like it. He said awarding money in the Olympic goes against, “the spirit of the Games.”

World Aquatics, swimming’s governing body isn’t going to like it either after Great Britain’s Tom Dean said he wants to earn money too. Dean is a two-time Olympic champion.

“When I tell people that we don’t receive any prize money from ­winning Olympic gold medals, that is always a shock and a surprise to everyone,” he said. “Whereas we do in the world championships, the ­Europeans. It’s just the biggest screen, in front of the most people, millions and millions of viewers, but you don’t see anything in return.”

In contrast, Lappartient said, “The Olympic spirit is to share revenues and have more athletes compete worldwide.”

The ripple effect will continue.

Doping and money

While the sports of athletics, cycling and perhaps swimming have serious doping issues, the prospect of making money may deepen the motivation to dope. This has yet to be proven, however, the two countries with the most suspended athletes are India and Kenya. While India’s economy is growing, there continues to exist a great chasm between the haves and the have-nots.

However, in contrast, when the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League send players to compete in the Summer and Winter Olympics, those associations send multi-millionaires. Meanwhile, the doping control in professional league sports is questionable at best.

The NBA and NHL players compete in the Olympics for free. But, of course, the professional leagues generate vast sums for having paying audiences and large broadcast contracts with network television. The fans follow their teams for 82 games per year, not including playoffs. Swimming, athletics and cycling do not attract as much professional league money. That’s on the individual sport, not the International Olympic Committee and certainly not on World Athletics. Coe has offered the money from the World Athletics budget.

The repercussions from the announcement will spread across various sports organizations and well into summer. For example, the British Olympic Association is already against it.

“I think what wasn’t great about the announcement last week is when one sport goes off and does something on their own, doesn’t include the other sports, the IOC or the national Olympic committees,” CEO Andy Anson told Sky Sports on Wednesday.

Sebastian Coe

Since Coe has taken over World Athletics, he has been a part of several positive changes in the organization. For example, the branding has been greatly improved. There is a new logo, and logos for official World Athletics events, all working off the same theme. The name was previously the International Association of Athletics Federations or IAAF, a mouthful, now simply World Athletics. There exists a renewed emphasis on the World Cross Country Championships to be more creative, with tougher courses and festival-like atmospheres. However, 2024 Belgrade, according to images, seemed poorly attended. Bathurst and Aarhus were more festive.

Coe decided to keep Russian track and field athletes out of the Olympic Games independent of the IOC. Athletics fans have received the decision positively. Russia and Belarus are currently banned for the war in Ukraine and were previously banned for systematic doping.

Coe’s request to have cross-country included in the Olympic Games was met with much support. However, there is pushback as to which Olympics, Summer or Winter. Arguably, the birthplace of cross-country running is England during the mid-1800s. There and in most northern hemisphere countries, cross-country is a winter sport. However, some World Championships have been run in the heat. For example, 2023 Bathurst, where the temperatures were well into the 30s and 2024 Belgrade in the 20s.

The drama and noise around athletes with differences in sexual development (not related to the transgender issue) has quietened greatly. Coe has spearheaded an effort to keep women’s sports protected and on an even playing field.

Finally, bringing the World Athletics Championships into an annual schedule, as it was in the past, has also been well received as athletes do make money in this event.

But, despite the many positive changes Coe has made, we have not heard the end of the concerns over offering money to Olympic medallists yet, not by a long shot.

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